The Good Boy, Good Girl Stage of Moral Development

Lawrence Kohlberg’s moral development is an adaptation of Jean Piaget’s developmental theory. It is made six stages of moral reasoning which are grouped into three major levels for his research. Each of these levels signified a fundamental shift in the social-moral perspective of the individual.

After I read all of the stages of Kohlberg’s theory, the Stage 3 of Interpersonal Relationship grabs my attention. So I finally decided that I will write something about it. As I will discuss about the stage 3 of moral development, I will relate it to the Heinz’s dilemma to make it easier to understand. The Stage 3 or Good Interpersonal Relationship is under Level II which is Conventional Morality.

The Next Level: Conventional Morality

So what’s with Conventional Morality?

  • Composed of 3rd and 4th stages of moral development
  • Typical for adolescence and adults
  • Performing right roles
  • Characterized as accepting the society’s convention against right and wrong.
  • The individual obeys the rules and follows the society’s norms even when there are no punishments or reward for its obedience and disobedience.
  • Morality is seen as achieving these expectations.
  • Individuals understand what is expected from them by their family, peers etc.

The Good Interpersonal Relationship– Stage 3

Now that we have a glimpse on what is Conventional Level about, we can now focus on one of its stages which will be the main point of discussion for this blog post. The stage that we’re talking about is the Stage 3 or what we call as Good Interpersonal Relationship.

The third stage of moral thinking is not reached by the majority of the adulthood according to the theorist himself, Kohlberg. The reason –still unknown. Apparently, critics say that most women were stock by this stage. In this stage, the expectation of others is the guideline of each individual.  As they try to fit in their society, they see morality as more than simple deals.

They were able to understand what is expected from them by their parents, peers, instructors and others. The reason why they try to be a “good boy” or a “good girl” is to live up to these expectations, having learned that there is inherent value in doing so. In living these expectations, they were observed to behave in numerous ways. To have a ‘Good Behavior’ one must have their good motives and do good for the sake of the society. Individuals must also show love, empathy, trust and concern for others to meet their expectations.

Heinz’s Dilemma

Let us relate the third stage of moral development to Heinz’s dilemma, one of the question in the Kohlberg’s Questionnaire.

Heinz Steals the Drug

“In Europe, a woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug.

The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000 which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said: “No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money from it.” So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug-for his wife. Should the husband have done that?” (Kohlberg, 1963).

People in this stage would naturally believe that Heinz was right to steal the drug because he wants to help his wife. Any man would do anything for his wife to survive any longer, they argue. Heinz just wanted to be a good husband and he tried to do everything he could without breaking the law. We cannot blame him for his wrong deeds.

Also, some may say that Heinz is should not steal the drug because stealing is bad and he is not a real criminal. And it doesn’t meet the expectations of the society because they may not understand Heinz’s situation at that point. However, they argue that the druggist should be the one to blame, not Heinz. They emphasize that the druggist is greedy, selfish and is not interested in prolonging others’ lives.

As evidenced, a 13 year old boy’s opinion to Heinz’s dilemma is:

It was really the druggist’s fault, he was unfair, trying to overcharge and letting someone die. Heinz loved his wife and wanted to save her. I think anyone would. I don’t think they would put him in jail. The judge would look at all sides, and see that the druggist was charging too much. (Kohlberg, 1963, p. 25)

The 13 year old perceives the druggist as a bad man and should be put into jail for being unfair and for letting someone die. He sees a good man Heinz, a bad druggist and an understandable judge. His answer was really under conventional morality because it shows that anyone would be right to do what Heinz did.

My thoughts. In stage 3.

I tried to answer the ethical questions about Heinz’s dilemma and as my answers shows, it’s kinda Stage 3-like type of observation. In my opinion, Heinz is so not to blame. He loved his wife enough that he wanted her to live longer by looking for a remedy for her disease. Although his way is getting out of track which is stealing, I personally do believe that his only focus is prolonging his wife’s life that he doesn’t care whether his actions were right or not. People do crazy stuffs when they’re in love, indeed. I empathize with Heinz. I would probably do the same if I were in his shoes.

In stage 3, references say that people tried to be good girls and good boys. I most likely to believe with that, I must say. It is because in that stage, I wanted to please everyone based on my actions and live up with their expectations. My desires to be liked of and well thought of is dominating. I don’t want to be recognized as the ‘naughty girl’ by everybody. But deep inside I know that I’m being too stubborn and always walking towards the unwanted path. I feel disappointed whenever I do bad stuffs but in my point of view, it is inevitable.

The truth is, I even know what stage of the theory of moral development am I at this time. I will always do the right thing though.

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