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Maslow And Kohlberg

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Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development are based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in his Theory of Human Motivation. As a child grows up, her motivations change from physical (most basic) needs to communal needs and finally to spiritual (highest) needs. Likewise, her moral reasoning changes from preconventional to conventional to postconventional.

In infancy and early childhood, her main needs are physiological (food, air, sleep) and safety (security, shelter) needs. She is at the Preconventional Moral Reasoning (subjective relativist) stage, when she is motivated by rewards, punishments, and the satisfaction of her own needs. According to Carol Gilligan, she is at a Self-Centered stage, when she views her own needs as all that matters. In middle and late childhood, her needs change to love and acceptance (feeling of belonging in a group) and esteem (both self-esteem and recognition by others). She is at the Conventional Moral Reasoning (culture relativist) stage, when she is motivated by group approval and acceptance, as well as law and order. According to Gilligan, she is at a Self-sacrificing stage, when she views other’s needs (culture or group) as more important than her own.

Many adults stay at this Conventional level, but few go on to the stage of Postconventional Moral Reasoning (universalists). Such adults are motivated by objective, fundamental, abstract, Universal Ethical Principles, as well as the equality of all people, and the value of life for all humans, regardless of law, punishment, reward, or need. Ghandi and Christ are considered to have been at the Postconventional level. This stage corresponds to Maslow’s last need of the hierarchy, self-actualization. This is a state in which the person is in harmony with God, creation, and doing that which gives meaning (no selfish or material needs). According to Gilligan, she has Mature Care Ethics, in which she balances her own needs and the needs of others.

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