The essay aims to evaluate the influence of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development in healthcare practice. Relationship between an occupation and relevant ethical reasoning has been a subject of extensive study in recent times, a more so in the field of healthcare as nurses and doctors frequently face moral and ethical problems in their profession.
Following the framework of Piaget’s model of cognitive thinking Kohlberg devised a theory of moral development having three high-order levels, each subdivided into two stages. The three high-order stages comprised of Pre-conventional level, Conventional level and Post-conventional level or principled level, each represents fundamental shift in an individual perception of morality (Gibbs, 2013). His theory concluded that a person’s modal development largely interacted with social situations and conventions. A person tends to change their perception of morality when faced with challenging situation or situations that strongly oppose their already existing moral beliefs. He postulated that movement through the levels of moral reasoning were universal and strictly sequential. The pre-conventional stage reflects an egocentric perspective. In the next level the moral perspective shift from self to ideas accepted by a group or community and lastly the post conventional level includes thinking beyond both self and society. The healthcare professionals mostly operate in levels IV and V which are social order-maintaining stage and social-contract orientation respectively (Prescott, Becket & Wilson, 2014). In health care studies have found moral differences based on gender as well as type of profession. Such as doctors are found to be more inclined towards justice perspective while nurses towards care perspective. These differences are often attributed to factors such as gender and established standards.
It is evident that healthcare professionals belong to particular stages of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. Any deviation from the accepted standards may reflect lack of effective care which is highly undesirable, particularly in this field of profession.
Gibbs, J. C. (2013). Moral development and reality: Beyond the theories of Kohlberg, Hoffman, and Haidt. Oxford University Press.
Prescott, J., Becket, G., & Wilson, S. E. (2014). Moral development of first-year pharmacy students in the United Kingdom. American journal of pharmaceutical education, 78(2), 36.