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What constitutes mature morality is a subject of great controversy. Each society develops its own set of norms and standards for acceptable behavior, leading many to say that morality is entirely culturally conditioned. There is debate over whether or not this means that there are no universal truths, and no cross-cultural standards for human behavior. This debate fuels the critiques of many moral development theories. Definitions of what is or is not moral are in a state of upheaval within individual societies. Controversies rage over the morality of warfare especially nuclear , ecological conservation, genetic research and manipulation, alternative fertility and childbearing methods, abortion, sexuality, pornography, drug use, euthanasia, racism, sexism, and human rights issues, among others.
Determining the limits of moral behavior becomes increasingly difficult as human capabilities, choices, and responsibilities proliferate with advances in technology and scientific knowledge. For example, prenatal testing techniques that determine birth defects in the womb force parents to make new moral choices about whether to give birth to a child. The rise in crime, drug and alcohol abuse, gang violence, teen parenthood, and suicide in Western society has also caused a rise in concern over morality and moral development. Parents and teachers want to know how to raise moral children, and they turn to moral development theorists to find answers. Freudian personality theories became more widely known to the Western public in the s and were understood to imply that repression of a child's natural drives would lead to neuroses.
Many parents and teachers were therefore afraid to discipline their children, and permissiveness became the rule. Cognitive development theories did little to change things, as they focus on reasoning and disregard behavior. Behaviorist theories, with their complete denial of free will in moral decision-making, are unattractive to many and require precise, dedicated, behavior modification techniques.
Schools are returning to character education programs, popular in the s and s, where certain virtues such as honesty, fairness, and loyalty, are taught to students along with the regular academic subjects. Unfortunately, there is little or no agreement as to which virtues are important and what exactly each virtue entails. Another approach to moral education that became popular in the s and s is known as values clarification or values modification. The purpose of these programs is to guide students to establish or discern their own system of values on which to base their moral decisions. Students are also taught that others may have different values systems, and that they must be tolerant of those differences.
The advantages of this approach are that it promotes self-investigation and awareness and the development of internal moral motivations, which are more reliable than external motivations, and prevents fanaticism, authoritarianism, and moral coercion. The disadvantage is that it encourages moral relativism, the belief that "anything goes. Lawrence Kohlberg devised a moral education program in the s based on his cognitive development theory.
Called the Just Community program, it utilizes age-appropriate or stage-appropriate discussions of moral dilemmas, democratic consensus rule-making, and the creation of a community context where students and teachers could act on their moral decisions. Just Community programs have been established in schools, prisons, and other institutions with a fair amount of success. Exposure to moral questions and the opportunity to practice moral behavior in a supportive community appear to foster deeper moral reasoning and more constructive behavior.
Overall, democratic family and school systems are much more likely to promote the development of internal self-controls and moral growth than are authoritarian or permissive systems. Permissive systems fail to instill any controls, while authoritarian systems instill only fear of punishment, which is not an effective deterrent unless there is a real chance of being caught or punishment becomes a reward because it brings attention to the offender.
True moral behavior involves a number of internal processes that are best developed through warm, caring parenting with clear and consistent expectations, emphasis on the reinforcement of positive behaviors rather than the punishment of negative ones, modeling of moral behavior by adults, and creation of opportunities for the child to practice moral reasoning and actions. According to personal social goal theory, moral behavior is motivated by the desire to satisfy a variety of personal and social goals, some of which are self-oriented selfish , and some of which are other-oriented altruistic.
The four major internal motivations for moral behavior as presented by personal social goal theorists are: 1 empathy; 2 the belief that people are valuable in and of themselves and therefore should be helped; 3 the desire to fulfill moral rules; and 4 self-interest. In social domain theory, moral reasoning is said to develop within particular social domains: 1 moral e. Most people have more than one moral voice and shift among them depending on the situation. In one context, a person may respond out of empathy and place care for an individual over concern for social rules. In a different context, that same person might instead insist on following social rules for the good of society, even though someone may suffer because of it.
People also show a lack of consistent morality by sometimes choosing to act in a way that they know is not moral, while continuing to consider themselves moral people. This discrepancy between moral judgment perceiving an act as morally right or wrong and moral choice deciding whether to act in the morally right way can be explained in a number of ways, any one of which may be true in a given situation:. The Moral Balance model proposes that most humans operate out of a limited or flexible morality. Rather than expecting moral perfection from ourselves or others, people set certain limits beyond which they cannot go.
Within those limits, however, there is some flexibility in moral decision-making. Actions such as taking coins left in the change-box of a public telephone may be deemed acceptable though not perfectly moral , while stealing money from an open, unattended cash register is not. Many factors are involved in the determination of moral acceptability from situation to situation, and the limits on moral behavior are often slippery.
If given proper encouragement and the opportunity to practice a coherent inner sense of morality, however, most people will develop a balanced morality to guide their day-to-day interactions with their world. Religious development often goes hand in hand with moral development. Children's concepts of divinity, right and wrong, and who is ultimately responsible for the world's woes are shaped by the family and by the religious social group to which each child belongs. Their concepts also mirror cognitive and moral developmental stages. In general, in the earliest stage up to age two years , the child knows that religious objects and books are to be respected.
The concept of a divine being is vague, but the child enjoys the regularity of the religious rituals such as prayer. In the next stage from two to 10 years , children begin to orient religion concepts to themselves as in the catechism litany, "Who made you? God made me. In other words, children perceive God to look like a human being only bigger or living in the sky. At this stage, God is physically powerful and often is portrayed as a superhero. God may also be the wish-granter and can fix anything. Children embrace religious holidays and rituals during this stage. In the Intermediate Stage during pre-adolescence, children are considered to be in the pre-religious stage. The anthropomorphized divinity is pictured as being very old and wise. God is also thought of as doing supernatural things: having a halo, floating over the world, or performing miracles.
Children in this stage understand the panoply of religious or divine beings within the religious belief system. For example, Christian children will distinguish between God and Jesus and the disciples or saints. The last stage in adolescence focuses on personalizing religious rituals and drawing closer to a divine being. Teenagers begin to think of God in abstract terms and look at the mystical side of the religious experience. They may also rebel against organized religion as they begin to question the world and the rules around them. Some adults who are considered highly religious consider God to be an anthropomorphized divine being or may reject the supernatural or mystical religious experience. This does not mean that these adults have somehow been arrested in their religious development.
This just means that the variation among these stages is great and is determined by the particular religious community in which the individual is involved. Every child misbehaves and will sometimes act selfishly and hurtfully. It is when these acts increase, impulses cannot be controlled, or authority defiance becomes troublesome, that parents may need to seek professional help. Lack of impulse control and authority defiance can be symptoms of medical conditions and psychological disorders. Self-centered behavior, coupled with lack of acceptance of wrongdoing that continues into older childhood and adolescence, may be a problem that requires family or individual counseling.
Risky behaviors such as speeding, drinking, smoking , doing drugs, or engaging in sexual behavior may be related to peer pressure and wanting to conform to the group or may be a way to defy authority. These behaviors, though deemed morally wrong by most societies, may also be symptoms of deeper psychological troubles. Of extreme concern is the rare child who acts with no remorse, and appears to have to conscience. This is usually signaled by early violent outbursts, destructive behavior, or by acts of cruelty to pets or other children. After each incident, the child has a flat affect no emotion or fails to admit that there was anything wrong with the his or her actions.
These children need intervention immediately. Behaviors such as these may be indicators of sociopathic disorders. Anthropomorphic —Taking on human characteristics or looking like humans. Cognition —The act or process of knowing or perceiving. Moral choice —Deciding whether to act in the morally right way. Moral judgment —Perceiving an act as morally right or wrong. New York: Longman, Coles, Robert. New York: Random House, Crittenden, Paul. Gilligan, Carol. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Huxley, Ronald.
Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting. Kohlberg, Lawrence. Kurtines, William M. Gewirtz, eds. Moral Development: An Introduction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Piaget, J. The Moral Judgment of the Child. New York: The Free Press, Power, F. New York: Columbia University Press, Schulman, Michael, and Eva Mekler. Bersoff, David M. Association for Moral Education Dr. James M. Dubois Center for Health Care Ethics. Louis, MO Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character. Boston University School of Education. Fax: Cambridge, MA The Heartwood Institute. Craig St. Toggle navigation. Photo by: SergiyN. Definition Moral development is the process throught which children develop proper attitudes and behaviors toward other people in society, based on social and cultural norms, rules, and laws.
Piaget's theory of moral reasoning Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, explored how children developed moral reasoning. Kohlberg's theory of moral development Lawrence Kohlberg, an American psychologist, extended Piaget's work in cognitive reasoning into adolescence and adulthood. Carol Gilligan and the morality of care Kohlberg's and Piaget's theories have come under fire. Bronfenbrenner Urie Bronfenbrenner studied children and schools in different cultures since many ethnic, religious, and social groups often have their own rules for moral behavior.
Other theories There are several other approaches to the study of moral development, which are categorized in a variety of ways. Common problems Religious development often goes hand in hand with moral development. Western blot with an affinity-purified antibody and examination of 5-HT2A receptor protein samples by electrophoresis has been described. Immunohistochemical staining of 5-HT2A receptors is also possible. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Chromosome 13 human .
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