Importance of Moral Development for Children: Analytical Essay
Morality is defined as “a system of principals that help an individual determine between right and wrong behavior.” Moral development, on the other hand, is a concept that has to deal with the incremental changes in moral beliefs as a person ages and gains maturity during his or her life (‘Moral development: forming a sense of rights and responsibilities | Educational Psychology’, 2019). Moral beliefs tend to be related to moral behavior but not entirely. While it is possible to know the “right” thing to do in a circumstance, an individual might not go through with it. Values are essentially underlying beliefs about societal standards that dictate moral decisions. It is important to note that children between the ages of 3 and 7 begin to learn the difference between “right” and “wrong”. A child’s experience within the home setting, the immediate environment, as well as their physical, emotional and social skills heavily influence their moral development. Each child develops morality at their own specific rate. Toddler aged children begin to realize that others have rights and needs as well but they still don’t understand the notion of “right” and “wrong”. Toddlers tend to listen and follow the rules of a particular environment to avoid being punished (pre-conventional level). This coincides with the concept that Kohlberg stated within his theory regarding morality. Soon after toddlerhood, children begin to demonstrate actions based on behaviors and beliefs they are surrounded by. Many school-aged children also begin to display feelings of guilt/remorse when they break the rules, as their conscience tends to help dictate behavior.
A child’s experience within the home setting, the immediate environment, as well as their physical, emotional and social skills heavily influence their moral development. Each child develops morality at their own specific rate. Toddler aged children begin to realize that others have rights and needs as well but they still don’t understand the notion of “right” and “wrong”. Toddlers tend to listen and follow the rules of a particular environment to avoid being punished (pre-conventional level). This coincides with the concept that Kohlberg stated within his theory regarding morality. Soon after toddlerhood, children begin to demonstrate actions based on behaviors and beliefs they are surrounded by. Many school-aged children also begin to display feelings of guilt/remorse when they break the rules, as their conscience tends to help dictate behavior. The morals that are established within a family household are imprinted within a youngling. At this stage in moral development, the child begins to think about their actions and how they affect those around them. Kids usually listen to authority figures to be viewed by society as being “good/just” rather than simply avoiding punishment as seen in earlier stages of moral development (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2019, pg. 307). Around the ages of 7 through 10, school-aged children start to realize that parents/caregivers and other authority figures are not always correct or have all the answers to life’s predicaments. Kids around this age begin to comprehend and value equality and look at morality as social merit (conventional level). In other words, they usually follow rules to be appreciated by others and to gain approval amongst their peers. Children at this age have a strong sense of what they should do and what they shouldn’t be doing. As the child grows older, they start to understand and base their choices and actions based on how it will affect those around them.
Moral development can vary greatly amongst children. Morality tends to develop throughout several different stages throughout a lifespan. As stated previously, a child’s environment greatly influences their moral development. Social, family, parenting, and religious values/beliefs play significant roles in shaping morality as well. Moral behavior is essentially learned behavior, which is acquired through observation. Children tend to attentively watch and learn the behavior of their parents, authority figures, and peers. The methods parents choose to discipline their children have an undeniable effect on how they develop morally. A child who receives fair and swift repercussions every time they break a rule will eventually learn to associate their actions with consequences. Morality is the ability to distinguish between right and wrong as well as the understanding of how to make just decisions. Kohlberg presents “Heinz’s dilemma” which deals with Heinz’s wife dying from a rare form of cancer. In the scenario, doctors inform Heinz that an experimental drug is the only chance of saving his wife’s life. The drug was recently created by a local chemist, whom Heinz tries desperately to buy the drug from. Unfortunately, the chemist informs Heinz that he is up charging the price of the drug by ten times its original price. Heinz is only able to raise half of the money and tries to persuade the chemist to let him pay half now/the rest later. The chemist declines, so he decides to take matters into his own hands and steals the drug himself. This presents readers with a moral dilemma, should he have stolen the drug? In my opinion, Heinz should have stolen the drug because he tried to pay for the item but was denied access to it simply over one man’s greed. My first defense for Heinz is that he was just in his actions because stealing a life-saving mediation is far more important than breaking the law (‘Thinking Exercise: Heinz Dilemma (An Idea on Moral Reasoning) – Screeble’, 2019). This would put me in stage 5 of the post-conventional level of moral development according to Kohlberg’s theory. I believe that laws are essentially guidelines that should not be so strict regarding situations such as the one presented in Heinz’s dilemma. I understand laws exist for a reason and are used as a standard for moral behavior. However, there are several instances (such as the one Kohlberg presented) where these very same laws work against the interest of common folk. In short, the potential for saving a life is certainly more significant than breaking the law such as theft in this case. Another answer I came to regarding this scenario would be that Heinz should be able to steal the experimental drug without having to face any criminal charges for his actions. I say this because the “law” in this instance is unjust due to it punishing an individual for trying to save a human life. According to this perspective, I would probably fall within stage 6 of the post-conventional level since I am more concerned with universal human rights. I feel that all people deserve the right to afford an item that can potentially be used to save lives, regardless of their economic/social class. I find it fascinating that I land within this category because in the text Kohlberg stated that very few people actually reach this level of moral development. Morality describes the system of beliefs that dictate our behavior as human beings. Without these principles in place, society, as we know, would cease to exist. In today’s society, the notion of morality is often associated with belonging to a certain point of view, but that is not always the case. Whether people know it or not, we all essentially adhere to moral principles of some kind. Humans are social beings, and the actions we perform have considerable repercussions on our environment as well as others around us. For this reason, we as a society need to be able to regulate our behavior to a set of standards in order to flourish and advance as a people.
Moral values are essentially the standards to which individuals perceive actions as being “good” or “evil”. These individual moral standards govern a person’s actions/behavior and are usually derived from a combination of society, religion, government, & one’s self. Take for instance, when moral values stem from society or government for that matter, they eventually change as the morals/laws of that particular society change (‘Moral Values’, 2019). A great example of this impact of ever-changing laws based on moral values would be in the case of marriages vs civil unions. In the past, it was uncommon to see couples who lived together without going through the legal matrimonial process. Nowadays, civil unions are almost as numerous as traditional married couples. Not only are they plentiful but they happen to be more socially accepted by others within their society than they were in previous generations. It would seem that once a society evolves into the “modern era”, prior moral values begin to disintegrate. Religion happens to be a significant source of moral development. Most faiths have guidelines of do’s and don’ts, a set of principles by which its believers should live by. Individuals who are devoted followers of a particular faith/religion will generally make considerable strides in order to follow that religion’s code of conduct. It is interesting to note that these particular moral codes can vary greatly from one individual to another. An individual whose faith allows polygamy will usually experience no guilt at having more than one spouse while believers to other faiths feel they must remain monogamous while in an intimate relationship.
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