A person at Stage One believes that Right is Might.
Individuals at this stage are obedience and punishment driven. They focus on the direct consequences of their actions on themselves. For example, an action is perceived as morally wrong because the perpetrator is punished. "The last time I did that I got spanked so I will not do it again." The worse the punishment for the act is, the more "bad" the act is perceived to be. Innocent victims are seen as guilty in proportion to their suffering. The Stage One person is "egocentric", lacking recognition that others' points of view are different from one's own. They defer to people with superior power or prestige.
According to Kohlberg, we have all begun at level one at around three or four years of age. Many of us have progressed upwards through subsequent stages, one at time. Movement is always “forward in sequence and does not skip steps”. However, there is no guarantee that we will reach the highest stages. Some people might find themselves frozen at one stage and may not progress from there. For example Kohlberg places the Nazi war criminal, Adolph Eichmann, at Stage One and Two.
According to Kohlberg, one does not regress. Once you’ve reached a stage you cannot fall back. He estimated that only 5 to 10 percent of the adult population consistently operates at Stage Six.
What does that mean for the person who is being falsely accused by a Stage One child?
A Stage-One child may see any adult interviewer as being an authority worthy of obeying. For example, a child told an experimenter that he would change his mind if the interviewer wanted him to because “you have all the answers in the back of the book.” A student at Stage One might see a Principal, Assistant Principal, or SCI Investigator as having all the answers and might change his/her eyewitness account because it does not coincide with the opinion of the adult power figure. This child will not be questioned by the teacher’s representative until months or even years later. When this finally happens, the child’s testimony often falls apart.
1. Videotape all interviews with all witnesses.
2. Allow the teacher’s representative (I am not talking about the union representative) to question witnesses as soon as allegations have been made—not years later.
3. Assess the stage of moral development of all witnesses.