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2010 Section 5 Question 6
Profile the way in which a person’s judgement of right and wrong can develop as s/he grows from moral immaturity to moral maturity.
Moral growth is when people learn to distinguish between right and wrong and then decide what the right thing to do is. A person’s judgement of what is right and wrong develops gradually.
Moral growth, which occurs in different stages from moral immaturity to moral maturity, may start off age-related but does not necessarily finish that way. Being at the stage of moral immaturity is usually true for children but some teenagers and even adults can fall into this category. A morally immature person wants rewards and approval from society. They are influenced by factors outside themselves (reward/punishment/peer approval). They often only obey rules to avoid being punished. A morally immature person stays at the level of a small child whose behaviour is self-centred.
The childhood stage of morality can actually be true of older people too. When children do something good like putting their toys away, they get rewarded. When children do something bad like hitting their brother or sister, they get punished. This way they quickly learn whether something is right or wrong. Learning this as children influences their behaviour, both at the time and later on.
The adolescent stage of moral development means that young people understand very clearly the difference between right and wrong. At this stage, people seek the approval of others – at home, at school and in the peer group. Teenagers are anxious to fit in and want to be the same as everybody else. At this stage approval is fundamental. However, adolescents also learn that school and home have rules. They will be punished if they break these rules. They soon know what behaviour is correct and are very much aware that rules and laws are an important influence on their behaviour.
The stage of moral maturity is expected to be reached at adulthood. This is not always the case. Sometimes a child of ten will make a better moral decision than an adult might make. Moral maturity means moving from selfishness to altruism. To be altruistic means that you think of others before you think of yourself when making a decision. People who are morally mature are aware of their responsibility to respect the rights of others and to think of the consequences of the decisions they make. They are less influenced by factors outside themselves (reward/punishment/peer approval). For example, a morally mature person would never steal from anyone. This is not because they are afraid of punishment. It is because they believe that stealing is wrong and that it affects the victim too much.
Growing from moral immaturity to moral maturity is a gradual process and happens at a different rate for different individuals. A person’s judgement of what is right and wrong develops from selfishness, to reward and punishment, to seeking approval, to following rules and laws and finally to altruism. Altruism (moral maturity) may be reached at the age of 14, 40 or possibly never.