Children, Youth, Families & Schools, Nebraska Center for Research on


Date of this Version



Published in David Matsumoto, ed., Cambridge dictionary of psychology (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p 133. Used by permission.


conventional morality
n. In Kohlberg's theory of moral development, this is the second level of moral reasoning, characterized by an awareness and focus on societal laws, norms, and rules. Two stages comprise this level of moral reasoning. In stage 3, good-boy-good-girl orientation, individuals judge behaviors on the basis of how closely actions conform to accepted norms of behavior, and what is considered appropriate or is approved of by others. In stage 4, authority orientation, individuals judge actions on the basis of their adherence to authority and rules, and insofar as they main- tain the social order or fulfill obligations. In this stage, there is respect for rules, authority, and the social order not because of any underlying principles or the benefits that can be reaped but because of unquestioning respect for authority. Youth in the early to mid-adolescent years are typically categorized in this level of moral reasoning.