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Human beings promote specific behaviors and attitudes in accordance with the existing norms and beliefs. Social learning theories predict situations whereby individuals develop desirable norms, traits, and values based on social laws or rules. This paper gives a detailed analysis of moral development in adolescents. The selected region for this discussion is the United States.
Moral development is a powerful process in human beings. Ethical maturity can empower teenagers to conform to existing cultural norms. This is an issue that has been taken seriously by counselors, psychotherapists, and psychologists. In this population, moral development is a complicated process since it is influenced by diverse forces such as hormonal changes, peer pressure, and social norms. This discussion examines the issues surrounding moral development in American adolescents.
Moral Development in Adolescents: The Case of the United States
Chung and McBride (2015) define “morality” as a concept that dictates how people live in accordance with existing guidelines. Moral development, on the other hand, is the ability to develop desirable behaviors that resonate with outlined ethical aspects and norms. After the age of 12, a person’s emotional and cognitive development occurs very fast. Adolescents who are in this stage begin to acknowledge and understand the beliefs embraced in their societies.
Taking American adolescents as an example, Widman, Choukas-Bradley, Helms, and Prinstein (2016) observed that many individuals aged between 11 and 14 were keen to make specific moral judgments every day. During this stage, many American adolescents were influenced by their peers. This resulted in a situation whereby the majority of them deviated from the attributes associated with their religions, cultures, and families (Chung & McBride, 2015). Consequently, most of them embraced misbehaviors such as alcohol abuse and smoking. Another study conducted by Griffin (2017) indicated that such malpractices were embraced by teenagers from every racial background. However, adolescents from minority races (such as Latinos and African Americans) are affected the most.
By the age of fifteen, around 42 percent of American youths were observed to question different forms of authority (Chung & McBride, 2015). This was the reason why the majority of these teenagers tend to ignore the instructions provided by their teachers, guardians, and parents. They also start to question the meaning and relevance of traditional institutions such as churches. Chung and McBride (2015) encourage parents and guardians to guide and empower their teenagers during this stage.
At the age of 17, many adolescents in America begin to conform and uphold existing social norms. According to Chung and McBride (2015), this becomes possible because they acquire unique identities. They also find their places in their surrounding environments. This is a clear indication that teenagers will go through a period of self-awareness and realization. Individuals who attain the highest level of moral development during their late adolescence period will become more passionate and ready to pursue their moral codes (Griffin, 2017). Consequently, they engage in various actions or activities that can strengthen their moral values or convictions.
Griffin (2017) uses the above example of moral conviction to explain why teenagers between the ages of 17 and 19 have increased chances of engaging in protests and questioning issues that appear to be inappropriate. Similarly, some might decide to engage in various projects that can result in improved ethical values or principles. During this period, the level of guidance and empowerment will have significant impacts on every teenager’s moral development process. Some individuals might be against any form of support or instructions. Others can be willing to learn and uphold specific moral attributes in order to become successful adults.
In the United States, moral development in adolescents is a process that is inhibited by various life experiences and predicaments. For instance, those living in troubled or violent families suffer from sexual, physical, or emotional abuse (Widman et al., 2016). Such traumatic experiences make it impossible for the affected children to conform to different social norms. Some might become depressed and be unable to exhibit desirable values.
Those who are exposed to malpractices such as crime and violence might become delinquents. They can also quit schools and engage in misbehaviors such as drinking and smoking. Those who lack proper support might develop their own personalities and identify their own role models. Such adolescents might also develop values, norms, and beliefs that are against those embraced in their societies (Chung & McBride, 2015). With the emergence of new technologies and social media networks, it has become impossible for American society to record positive moral development outcomes.
The absence of a moral compass can make it hard for adolescents in this country to realize their full potential. Some find it hard to develop meaningful relationships with their peers and relatives. They will also be unable to pursue most of their goals in life (Loudova & Lasek, 2015). Those who have this kind of guidance become responsible, ethical, and successful.
Several insights have been gained after completing the targeted study. Physical development in adolescents has been observed to take place very fast. An individual will record increased weight and height within a short period. This growth results in hormonal changes. In girls, breasts enlarge and the body shape changes significantly. Pubic hair also starts to grow. Menstruation is a major physical development in girls (Widman et al., 2016). In boys, the testes begin to produce hormones and sperms. Their voices also deepen during this stage. New emotional and cognitive understandings that should be taken seriously by guardians and parents also occur.
The level of cognitive development is quite high during this period. Adolescents are usually able to engage in critical and hypothetical thinking. They can also use logical processes to address the issues affecting them. Due to their increased cognitive abilities, more adolescents will become frustrated with complex issues (Loudova & Lasek, 2015). For example, they can become unhappy with any form of schoolwork or restriction. Some might go further to engage in high-risk behaviors such as sexual malpractices or misuse of illegal substances.
The completed research study has also revealed that adolescents develop new emotional and social skills. They become aware of their feelings and how to manage them. Depending on the issues facing them, they can exhibit emotions such as anger, happiness, and hatred. Their social competencies also take a new path during this stage. They also understand how to interact with people depending on their respective genders (Griffin, 2017). Additionally, they will maintain personal space whenever necessary. With increased cognitive abilities, affected teenagers become depressed and exhibit psychosomatic symptoms.
The above discussion has revealed that moral development in adolescents is a complicated issue. Although the purpose of this process is to ensure that more individuals acquire appropriate values and behaviors, numerous forces act on every adolescent. This is the reason why teens will exhibit diverse values and practices during this stage. The presented findings can be taken seriously by parents, counselors, psychotherapists, and educators in order to guide more teenagers to become responsible adults.
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Chung, S., & McBride, A. M. (2015). Social and emotional learning in middle school curricula: A service learning model based on positive youth development. Children and Youth Services Review, 53, 192-200. Web.
Griffin, A. (2017). Adolescent neurological development and implications for health and well-being. Healthcare, 5, 62-69. Web.
Loudova, I., & Lasek, J. (2015). Parenting style and its influence on the personal and moral development of the child. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 174, 1247-1254. Web.
Widman, L., Choukas-Bradley, S., Helms, S. W., & Prinstein, M. J. (2016). Adolescent susceptibility to peer influence in sexual situations. Journal of Adolescent Health, 58, 323-329. Web.