Moral Reasoning of Teenagers in Face of Dilemmas

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Adolescent age is the period of a tempestuous development of the personality. A person gradually gains valuable life experience which has a formative influence on his/her behavioral patterns and moral judgments. To investigate teenagers’ moral development, I studied hypothetic actions that a young man would take in case he faces moral dilemmas.

During the given experiment, I have interviewed an eighteen-year-old American male student and changed his name to James. He comes from a full Christian family, lives in a suburb, and studied philosophy. James was offered to imagine himself facing two moral dilemmas. The first one is the well-known Heinz dilemma with a dying womans husband stealing the necessary drug due to the lack of money and the druggists refusal to reduce the price (qtd. in McLeod par. 4). As with most moral dilemmas, this one forces a person to choose between greater and lesser evil, thus, it is particularly hard for sensitive people to make a choice since they avoid any evil (Wogaman 11). James told me that he would do the same for the sake of a beloved womans life but probably call police if he saw a man robbing a drugstore since he would think that this theft is for a personal benefit rather than for saving ones life. Two parts of Jamess response characterize him as a potentially loyal husband and a conscious citizen as well. Moreover, he claimed that a man should not be punished for his violation since his actions would save a humans life, though be a material damage to the druggist. James added that the stealer has not got enough money for the drug, thus, would not get them for a good lawyer who could save him from the imprisonment verdict. The young man said that if the justice existed in this universe, it would be the druggist who was punished for the womans death, but in the real world, he would get a punishment according to the laws of karma rather than the constitution. The following Jamess answer confirming a stricter verdict for the druggists refusal to provide an important person with a remedy has finally persuaded me about his almost adult state of mind.

The second moral dilemma is also a borrowed one. It offers to consider the possible options for a person witnessed his best friends spouse-to-be having an affair with the best man on the wedding day (Clayton par. 1). In fact, there are only two options: to tell your best friend the truth or to remain silent. I was surprised by Jamess giving almost instant response claiming that he would open his friends eyes. Considering the consequences, he said that such decision would ruin the wedding day but save friends life in the sense of time. James explains his choice with a natural hatred for betrayers, adding that he would not let his friend waste the whole life on the unreliable person. Many of us would choose to save our breath in order not to become the only guilty for everybody relating to the wedding day, but James has shown that he would do everything including self-sacrifice for his loved ones.

Jamess responses seem to fit the person of an older age, thus, I believe he already has reached the post-conventional stage of the moral development which is characterized by a ready set of moral principles and cool-headed reasoning (qtd. in McLeod par. 16). A person who has developed her moral to this level holds the standards that they believe to be the basement of the society even if the reality is different (Colby and Kohlberg 20). However, one could easily be confused with Jamess answers and claim that he expressed such thoughts in order to be seen good by the others, but I feel very strongly that his moral reasoning is somewhere between the fifth and the sixth substages coined by Kohlberg. To be honest, it is surprisingly for his age since the mentioned level of moral development is more typical for adults. James shows the willingness to perform genuine moral actions that appear in case the choice of individuals decisions is made for creating good rather than matching his/her desires (Shortall 143). The young man is ready to take a serious risk to save ones life or feelings. I would say that Jamess behavioral pattern illustrates the male model of Gilligans care perspective which is marked by the concern to the surrounding people independently from the generally accepted principles (qtd. in Sander-Staudt par. 5).

To sum up, I was astonished by Jamess results, especially after assessing his responses according to Kohlbergs framework which is useful to draw a line between a teen and a grown state of mind. It was even more unusual to hear the reasoning of his decisions that was logically and coherently justified. However, there was a moment when I began to realize that Jamess answers are nothing but an attempt to show his high and noble moral standards. The instant response to the second dilemma, which is considered to be a harder one, persuaded me about the authenticity of his principles that are probably based on his life experience. I am totally satisfied with the results of the given experiment and hope that Jamess behavior will not only be the reflection of his moral but bring him personal benefit as well.

Works Cited

Clayton, Tracy. 9 Moral Dilemmas That Will Break Your Brain. BuzzFeed. Web.

Colby, Anne, and Lawrence Kohlberg. The Measurement of Moral Judgment. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010. Print.

McLeod, Saul. Kohlberg – Moral Development. Simply Psychology. 2016.

Sander-Staudt, Maureen. Care Ethics. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2016.

Shortall, Michael. Human Rights and Moral Reasoning: A Comparative Investigation by Way of Three Theorists and Their Respective Traditions of Enquiry: John Finnis, Ronald Dworkin, Jürgen Habermas. Roma: Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 2009. Print.

Wogaman, J. Philip. Moral Dilemmas: An Introduction to Christian Ethics. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2009. Print.

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PsychologyWriting. "Moral Reasoning of Teenagers in Face of Dilemmas." May 24, 2022.