This article is about two theories of moral development outside of Spiral Dynamics. These two researchers were influential in the study of human development. Kohlberg’s work focused on person’s ability to internalize fundamental moral principles. Gilligan work concentrated on a person’s ability to create and sustain healthy relationships. Both of these researchers were influential to Integral Theory and the work of Ken Wilber.
Kohlberg’s background
Lawrence Kohlberg was born in 1927 in New York. His parents separated when he was four and had split custody in his youth. As a young adult, he smuggled Jewish refugees from Romania to Israel. He lived in Israel during the revolution but concentrated on non-violent forms of protest. After the revolution, he lived in a Kibbutz for a short time before studying at the University of Chicago.
After graduating with a Ph.D. in psychology, he developed his theory of moral development. The paper published in 1958, the original study focused on influential and wealthy white males. His initial conclusion was women can not move past stage three of his six stages. Studying later in his career found similar results when adding women and other cultures to the study. At the end of his work, he did conclude women can evolve through all three levels and all six stages. Below is a brief description of the three levels.
Preconventional Behavior
Preconventional Behavior is the first level of moral behavior. The first stage focuses on selfish benefit. In Spiral Dynamics this behavior is classified in the Red Meme. In Kohlberg’s work, punishment avoidance is the first stage, and reward-seeking is the second stage. A person at the conventional level judges the level of moral corruption in an action by the amount of punishment it induces. Likewise in stage two, a person will judge the virtue of an action by the size of the reward. It is tough to control people at this level due to the fact they are at the whim of their emotionality.
Conventional Behavior
The Conventional level of moral behavior has begun to internalize society’s moral codes, but still ultimately does this for personal stability. Stage three moral behavior conforms to the standards of society to ensure one’s status in his social group remains high. At stage three, people realize that being well received by others can lead to immediate rewards and rewards in the future. A person no longer needs an immediate reward or punishment. Roughly, this is analogous to the Orange Meme.
In stage four, a person concentrates on law and order. In this stage, a person has moved past his social standing and is worried about the society as a whole. A person at this stage would say “ What if everyone parks in a handicapped spot?” Or “What happens when everyone downloads music? The entire industry could be crushed.” At this stage, a person will have consistent behavior even if no one is looking or will find out. However, the ultimate motivation is for a person to live in a stable society. Therefore, it is ultimately self-centered. Roughly this is analogous to the Blue Meme.
Postconventional Behavior
In the post-conventional level, people move beyond their personal comfort and start to build a more just society. At this level, the rules and laws of society are followed only if they meet the moral judgment of the subject. In this level, a person will find people that help slaves on the underground railroad or conscientious objectors to war.
The motivation for Stage Five is the social contract. A person’s morals are influenced by other people’s perspectives, and final judgments are made involving the well-being of the group. The ultimate goal is to create the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Kohlberg concluded that democracy operates at this stage of development. Stage Five is roughly Orange / Green Meme.
Universal ethical principles motivate Stage Six. Immanuel Kant best personifies this stage. In this stage, a person acts solely from their moral reasoning due to their evolution. Kohlberg found very few people at this stage of development. Stage Six is roughly analogous to Yellow.
Conclusion on why women cannot move past stage three.
In Kohlberg’s work in 1958, he concluded that women could not move past stage three. In his analysis, a woman will always be chiefly concerned with how her family viewed her. He does not take into account it is difficult in the 1950’s for a woman to get a position of influence outside of her family. Therefore, she does not have the opportunity to develop moral ideas that include people outside the family. Kohlberg chose influential and wealthy white males for his study because they have the most opportunities to expand their viewpoints. His later studies included women and minorities. In his later studies, he concluded moral development is not contingent of gender or race. The change in his thinking would also coincide with more women and minorities having positions of power.

Gilligan’s background
Carol Gilligan was born in New York in 1936. She married a fellow graduate student at Harvard. She got the opportunity to teach with Erik Erikson whom she says is very influential in her work. She studied under Kohlberg learned his methods and later became his best critic.
It is important to note that the people around heavily influenced Gilligan. She lived in married people’s housing at the University of Chicago. Gilligan lived and interacted with minority women all day long. She was also part of an interracial dance company in Chicago. Voter registration and protesting the Vietnam War were issues she that she had substantial involvement. She said that psychology is portraying the world of white men.
Ultimately, Gilligan agrees with Kohlberg’s overall levels, the subject’s relation to those around her is the basis of her work. Her most famous work “In a different voice.” She chose to study women contemplating abortion due to the recent judgment in Roe v. Wade. In Gilligan’s opinion, this is the one decision a woman can make independently. I will summarize her stages below.
I love me
“I love me” is from the Preconventional level. The primary goal is to have the easiest life possible. A woman at this level is chiefly concerned with how her decisions will affect her. The effect of their action on those around them is not a concern.
In regards to the abortion question, a woman will evaluate how having a baby will affect her plans in the future. If she believes having a baby will not keep her from friends or going to school, she will have the baby. If she believes having a baby will be the end of her goals, then she will have the abortion.
I love you
“I love you” is from the Conventional level. The primary goal is to please the person you are with or your family. In this stage, women will only evaluate how her decision will affect her family. This viewpoint can result in putting your needs so far in the background the woman can inflict harm on yourself. Some have expressed this view as “I love you more than me.”
In regards to the abortion question, a woman will evaluate how having a baby will affect her family and how it hits in with her religious value system. How the pregnancy will affect her is almost irrelevant. In this stage, a woman should be careful that she is not doing real harm to herself with whatever her decision on her pregnancy.
I love us
“I love us” is the Postconventional level. The primary goal is to come to the best decision for herself and her family. “I love us” is the highest level and very similar to Yellow meme in Spiral Dynamics. In this stage, a woman logically evaluates her options and chooses the best thing for everyone involved.
In regards to the abortion question, a woman will fully assess how terminating the pregnancy or keeping the pregnancy will affect all those in her sphere of influence. She understands how both options will impact her mental state. There is also a plan for comforting her family and repairing relationships.
Conclusions on differences between Kohlberg and Gilligan
I think it is important to note that both Gilligan and Kohlberg include both genders in their highest levels of moral development in their later work. Gilligan attributed the difference to gender. In Gilligan’s work, most women develop relational morals, and most men develop absolutist morals. I will say that there are differences due to gender, but I think there some much bigger factors here.
The most significant factors here are the breadth of views and range of influence. Going back to the spiral dynamics framework, each value meme represents the ability to take on one more view. Red is egocentric), Blue is second ethnocentric, Orange is nation-centric, and Green is world centric. These memes play out differently due to your sphere of influence. If you are wealthy and can insulate yourself from the repercussions of your actions you can have a more absolutist moral view. If a poor person sues a company for the discrimination, he will risk never getting another job. If a rich person sues a company for discrimination, they can live off the family money. Poor people have to be more relational because they are more likely to need the help of others. Also, poor people are not in positions to make decisions that have an effect on people outside their family. Since they are not making a decision that will affect significant amounts of people they do not need to expand to a world centric view. If a poor person does develop a world view, they can only act in a minuscule way. Someone who is poor may recycle or volunteer in the community. Beyond these small acts, they cannot do much.
Kohlberg determined on his first study that women cannot develop to an entirely absolutist morality because they have such a deep concern for the family. It is important to remember that the family was her largest sphere of influence in the 1950’s. At the same time, a wealthy man can hire a person to tend to his children. The wealth man’s power could cause him to have poor skills in relationships. He has not had to deal with emotional issues, and he does not have to deal with family members upset with his decision.