Adolescent Moral Development

Morality can be defined as the distinction between what is right and wrong or what is good and bad. Although, moral reasoning depends on culture which makes it difficult to define. Most people don’t look at where these principles are coming from or what guides one through moral development. As children grow and learn, usually from care takers and people who inspire their every need, their morality changes based on several levels. Although researching of moral development goes as far back as Socrates, there are two psychologists that studied morality in depth and they are Lawrence Kohlberg and Jean Piaget.

Jean Piaget was a cognitive developmental psychologists spending most of his time working with children and adolescents, including his own. Although, Piaget’s observation of moral development wasn’t in depth like Kohlberg, he allowed for a basic understanding. He believed that moral development occurred in stages. Piaget strongly believed in education and thought interaction in a education setting allowed children maximum potential in cognitive development. Piaget believed in many things, but when it came to moral development there were only two basic principles.

The first principle was that children develop moral ideas in stages and could not skip stages, although movement from one stage to the other could vary in length. Lastly he believed that children create their own perception of their world, including whether their actions enforce what is morally right or wrong. “Piaget’s ideas of moral realism and morality of cooperation play a role in Kohlberg’s theory. Children in Piaget’s stage of moral realism believe that rules are absolute and can’t be changed.

Punishment should be determined by how much damage is done, and the intention of the child is not taken into account. For example, a child operating in the stage of moral realism would believe that a child who accidentally breaks three cups should be punished more than a child who breaks one cup on purpose. Eventually, both the damage done and the intention of the offender in a given moral dilemma are considered in this stage of moral development. ” Lawrence Kohlberg studied moral development in depth and that is what he is most commonly known for.

Although his basic ideas and principles originated from the ideas of Piaget, Kohlberg did an in depth study of the basics of morality and how a child or adolescents move from one stage to the next. Kolberg had developed six stages of moral development. All of the stages were grouped into three levels of sub categories. Stages one and two are pre-conventional judgment and moral development. Stages three and four are conventional judgment. Lastly, stages are five and six are post conventional.

When children are born Kolberg believes that they have no morals and as they grow and learn, morals begin to form. The pre-conventional level is where morality begins. This is the basis of moral judgment. The moral values here in this stage are external. Stage one is based on obedience and punishment. If a child is punished they will try and avoid the situation knowing that they will be punished so that act is known as wrong to the children. Stage two is a slightly more complex stage. Children are now egocentric and are able to exchange thoughts and ideas.

Both male and females hold certain roles and have different beliefs. The conventional level “Those who reason in a conventional way judge the morality of actions by comparing them to society’s views and expectations. Conventional morality is characterized by an acceptance of society’s conventions concerning right and wrong. At this level an individual obeys rules and follows society’s norms even when there are no consequences for obedience or disobedience. Adherence to rules and conventions is somewhat rigid, however, and a rule’s appropriateness or fairness is seldom questioned “.

Stage three is where children are labeled. In this stage children are labeled either good or bad. Children try and please others for acceptance and approval. For example, during the Christmas holiday season children try their hardest to be good so Santa will come and bring them Christmas presents. Where as if they are bad they will receive coal. Stage four is where authority comes in and plays a highly important role. Children learn that authority figures are the ones who control and maintain order. Also they try and live up to others expectations instead of their own.

The post conventional level is where moral values allow adolescents and adults to distinguish the difference between societies view of right and wrong and the views of their individual views. Most people live by these views of right and wrong. In stage five the world is known as being able to hold their own opinions and views. Stage six is using your own opinions and applying them. For instance choosing to use logic and consistency or the feeling of your own ethics to make understandable and logical decisions. While a child grows the formation of morality is highly important.

Alcoholics, drug addicts and murderers might suffer from disturbed moral thoughts which might cause an error in their beliefs of right and wrong. For instance, a murderer who grew up in an abusive home atmosphere might think it is okay to be abusive and hurt other people. So therefore there morality was culture based and was encouraged based on the home life sustained. The same for alcoholics and drug addicts. Although, not all people who come from these types of dysfunctional families suffer and act upon there cultural up bringing some may.

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