Rite of Passage and Developmental Theories

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This subject of this post and the theory found to be most suited is that of Lawrence Kohlberg in terms of rites of passage for an individual. Many cultures recognize a rite of passage for its symbolic significance. It may consist of certain rituals and ceremonies but these activities signify a lot of things to the people of that culture such as acceptance, mediation, conflict resolution, sign of maturity, negotiation, making of peace or restoration of rights, all depending on the occasion. However, different cultures vary in their recognition of these rites of passage, based on their cultural values and norms but there is a universality to these practices. Theories of Piaget were more concerned with childhood; Kohlberg extended Piaget's theories toward the full spectrum of life, from early childhood to adulthood to old age. The theories of Erik Erikson also proposed basically the same principles as that of Kohlberg but Erikson's theories are more centered on the individual while that of Kohlberg focuses on society. It is in this aspect that Kohlberg' theories are more applicable to rites of passage among cultures; this is because these theories apply in the transition from adolescence to adulthood that signifies a certain person is ready to accept his or her responsibilities as a full member of that society.

Kohlberg’s theory on moral development is most appropriate, especially stages 3 and  4, which are having good inter-personal relationships and maintaining the social order, respectively (Shiraev & Levy, 2010, p. 201) because it is precisely on these two stages that adolescence also occurs and coincides with a most opportune time to instill a sense of responsibility.  An example of the universal applicability of this theory is marriage, when a person is now ready to accept full responsibilities of parenthood. One change to this theory is how to do rites of passage among same-sex couples who insist on their rights to an alternative kind of lifestyle as normal people.


Shiraev, E. & Levy, D. (2010). Cross-cultural psychology: Critical thinking and contemporary applications (3rd ed.). Boston, MA, USA: Allyn and Bacon.