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Chapter Twelve. Moral Development during Adolescence

Judith G. Smetana and Elliot Turiel

Subject Developmental Psychology » Adolescent Developmental Psychology

Key-Topics morality

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405133029.2005.00014.x


During the 1920s, many social commentators in the United States were convinced that the nation was in serious moral decline. In large measure, the decline was blamed on American youth (including adolescents and young adults), because they abandoned traditional values, no longer respected authority, and gave in to their own interests and embraced individualistic concerns ( Fass, 1977 ). At the same time, other social commentators believed that changes in the attitudes and behaviors of youth reflected a moral advance in that they were willing to defy authority and traditional norms in the service of fairness, equality, and self-determination. Such contrasting views of adolescence are common throughout the twentieth century and appear in many research findings. During the 1960s, for instance, American youth (adolescents as well as post-adolescents) were derided by some for their selfishness, lack of values, and radical individualism, whereas others praised their moral commitments to alleviating racism and poverty and their efforts to bring an end to a war. In turn, during the late 1980s and the 1990s, a number of commentators have maintained that society is experiencing moral crisis and breakdown that has led to a rising tide of juvenile delinquency, adolescent drug and alcohol use, and teenage pregnancy and childbearing ( Bennett, 1992 ; Whitehead, 1993 ; Wynne, 1986 ). In a similar ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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