Kohlbergs Theory

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There are three factors that need to be considered when such scenarios present themselves in a court system and they are the defendant age, crime type and the outcome of the crime according to Walker and Woody (2011). The defendant age is a very key factor in considering whether a case of a juvenile should be handled in a juvenile system or not. The development of morality is considered to be in stages according to Kohlbergs theory. According to this theory, morality is considered to be at three levels, pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional morality (McLeod, 2011). Pre-conventional morality is staged below nine-year olds where morality is not of our own making but shaped by those who are frequently around us, particularly caregivers and the families.

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The second level of morality is the conventional morality where an individual starts to understand morality on the basis of their role models. In other words, a child at this level would consider what his or her role models actions as being right despite what his or her parents advice and most adolescents fall in this category. What the family and the caregivers define no longer serve to confine morality. Kohlberg suggests two stages at this level: good interpersonal relationships and maintaining social order. The former implies that the child is moral for approval by others and the latter points to the fact that the child becomes more aware of the societal rules governing morality (McLeod, 2011). Post-conventional morality suggests that an individuals morality is based on principles guided and chosen by oneself or ones understanding of morality. This perception of morality is governed by the global views of morality rather than what the society considers. This last stage suggests moral maturity.

Age becomes relevant because of such things as moral development. There are some children whose morality has not yet developed and yet the situation they are in is grave. In the news, an 11 year old boy murdered an eight year old girl after the latter and the sister refused to let him see some puppies. The court found the boy guilty of first degree murder which was committed on October 4, 2015. The current situation calls for such a child to be handled in a criminal court where the child would be convicted to serve prison time. With regards to age, the childs morality has not yet matured in the sense that the ability to fully understand the gravity of the situation is very difficult (Semple & Woody, 2011). The boy probably did not know if he had murdered the girl and putting such a child in criminal system is not the right thing to do.

Young people, particularly those younger than 15 years, put in prison implies that part of their morality develops in prison. The fact that the adolescents develop morality through the role models makes this kind of action to be dangerous in the sense that the teens might end up having a poor role model from prisons. The end result is that the child would end up disregarding the upheld and standard morals of the society and at the post-conventional stage of moral development where he chooses his own principles, the child would be bent of deviant behavior. The best solution for the prosecutors and judges is to ensure that a child is given a second chance to develop fully before being put on the criminal charges.

The second aspect to be considered before placing a child on criminal charges is the type of crime one is involved in. this is because there are certain crimes that can be put on hold till the child expresses a certain level of maturity in terms of morality. For instance, a child answering for theft should be put on juvenile courts for punishment rather than being placed in the criminal court system. On the other hand, a child who commits a grave crime like murder should be considered to be managed in criminal courts. The solution for the problem facing the community should be considered in the line of the type of crime that was committed by the felon. When the crime is grave, then the child should be given the chance to mature before he or she faces the consequence of his or her crime.

Finally, the outcome of the crime is to be considered because it is a major one. This is because the crime defines whether the situation is grave. For instance, a minor involved in robbery might end up facing the criminal charges when casualties are involved. A good example is Cameron Williams case where the minor pointed a gun at a police officer and led to casualties in the scene. This is what propelled the court judge to place the minor in the criminal court system. Kip Kinkel also faced the same charges when he was involved in a shooting at his school, Thurton high school leading to the death of 2 students and sever injuries to 25 others.

From the description above, these three factors need to be considered by the jurors before they push the case to the criminal courts. In other words, the childs age, crime type and the outcome of the crime should always be put in mind at all times (Walker & Woody, 2011). Additionally, these three factors are to be considered together rather than individually. This is because they provide the perfect description of the solution to the current predicament that the society faces. A child of age that is lower than fifteen is to be considered immature and might not be in command of his or her actions. Additionally, the crime type and the outcome should clear the air even more. In this sense, a child involved in a murder case or actions that lead to casualties as in Cameron and Kip Kinkels cases.

Therefore the law should introduce a compromise when minors are involved. The law should not only consider that the crime is grave for them to put a child in a criminal court. They should measure the outcome of the crime and the type of crime. A murder case is graver than a theft case and the age of the offender should always be considered as well. On the other side, the society should not only consider that a minor is involved but rather, they should include the other factors so that they can understand the action of the law enforcers to put a minor in the criminal court. In the end, when the law and the society have understood the factors, the result is that they would be in consensus with regards to putting a minor on criminal charges.


McLeod, S. (2011). Kohlberg. Simplypsychology.com. Web. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/kohlberg.html

Semple, J. K., & Woody, W. D. (2011). JUVENILES TRIED AS ADULTS: THE AGE OF THE JUVENILE MATTERS. Psychological Reports 109 (1): 301-308. DOI: 10.2466/07.17.PR0.109.4.301-308.

Walker, C. M., & Woody, W. D. (2011). Juror decision making for juveniles tried as adults: the effects of defendant age, crime type and crime outcome. Psychology, Crime & Law 17 (8): 659-675. DOI: 10.1080/10683160903493471.

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