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Moral and Religious Development in Adolescents

Criticisms of Kohlberg’s Theory

Critics pointed out that Kohlberg’s moral stages appeared later in life and not as what Kohlberg envisioned it to be. For instance, most adolescents were discovered to reason at Stage 3, but at the same time, some of them are already capable of Stage 2 and Stage 4 reasoning. Stage 5 did not appear until the subjects were already 20 to 22 years old, and only ten percent of them can reason at this level. Critics also asserted that Stage 6 is elusive or difficult to discover people who reason out in the highest level of moral thought as envisioned by Kohlberg.

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Critics also said that Kohlberg gave so much emphasis on moral thought and did not provide insights into moral behavior. For these critics, Kohlberg’s ideas may be provocative but of little use in the real world where people are desperate for leaders who will do the right thing and not just talk about standards and rules. Thus, an adolescent who focuses on moral reasoning can easily justify the wrong action because he or she can explain the logic behind such actions. But if the same person considers the behavior and the consequence of that behavior then that the same person will refrain from doing something that is perceived wrong by many people.

Define Altruism and moral thinking and feeling

Altruism is defined as the unselfish interest in helping others. It is a common type of prosocial behavior throughout the world and is a guiding principle in all major religions of this planet. Moral thinking plays an important role in the expression of altruism because people do not perform selfless acts without understanding why they need to do something that usually requires a sacrifice on their part.

For instance, no one will give his or her hard earned money without understanding what it is for and how it can help another person. Moral thought is the reason why this kind of unselfish behavior is possible. In the same manner moral feeling is important because it serves as a compass or a guide that helps a person understand the consequence of the person’s actions. Negative feelings that come from selfish behavior can help in the decision process.

Cults vs mainstream religious groups

A cult is similar to mainstream religious groups in many ways. There is oftentimes a charismatic leader in the middle, a set of beliefs that is described to be the best or better than the rest. There is a community of people involved. But a cult differs significantly from mainstream religious groups because it focuses onward, whereas established religions are focused on helping other people and make their lives better.

Usually, there is a leader that is overbearing and authoritarian. It is interesting to note that most of the people who join cults are normal average people. However, one-third of the members often have depressive symptoms. It must also be pointed out that according to researchers only about 5 percent of cult members have major psychological problems.

Psychoanalytic explanation of moral development

One version of the psychoanalytic explanation of moral development was proposed by Erik Erikson, who outlined three stages:

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  1. specific moral learning in childhood;
  2. ideological concerns in adolescence,
  3. ethical consolidation in adulthood.

In this regard, Erikson pointed out that parents should pay careful attention to factors and events that will make their adolescent children feel disillusioned with the moral and religious beliefs they acquired during childhood. If this happens, then the adolescent will lose their sense of purpose and feel empty. It is a dangerous situation to be in. It is also important for parents to infuse to their children positive feelings such as empathy, which allows the adolescent to have a natural base from which to acquire values.

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