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Adolescents are influenced by everything around them, in all aspects of life. Moral development is perhaps the most important part of adolescence and can be influenced by many sources. However, parents have the potential to have the most influence on their child’s moral development. Whether the parents are highly involved in the child’s life, absent from the child’s life, or even the way the parents choose to go about enforcing rules and punishments on the child will all have an impact on the child’s moral development during adolescence.
Parents are role models for their kids, and during adolescence the majority of moral influence will come from parents. Parents might enforce certain rules more heavily than others, promoting specific morals they would like to instill in their child (Camodeca, Taraschi, 2015). For example, if parents have no tolerance for lying, and enforce heavy punishments on their child if they are caught lying. It becomes apparent the parents’ hold honesty to be of high moral significance. Adolescents are also more likely to follow behaviors of their parents that are viewed as acceptable. Such as consuming alcohol, if the parents casually drink at home the adolescent will be less hesitant to drink at a party or come home under the influence of alcohol, because all though there will be consequences, it is not viewed as taboo in their household. On the other hand, if an adolescent is brought up in a household that is alcohol free and the parents hold alcohol to be forbidden, that adolescent is not likely to drink or be very hesitant to try alcohol in fear of their parents finding out. I personally have known people whose parents were ok with them drinking when they were nineteen or twenty years old, and sadly one of them had obtained his first DUI before even turning twenty-one, and it was almost treated as a right of passage. However, for me I grew up in the second household, my parents do not drink at all, and my mom would go so far as to say drinking a single beer is sinful. Because of this I can assure you I never drank as a teenager, because getting caught for drinking in my mind would have been the end of the world. I think this example could also be true for many other situations as well, if a parent lives a certain lifestyle the child will generally view that lifestyle as acceptable, and the opposite is also true.
Possibly the most important aspect of the parent’s influence on their adolescent child’s moral development is the level of involvement of the parent in the child’s life. Obviously if the parent is not present or hardly around then they will have little to no influence on the child, and the child will look to someone else as a role model for moral development. However, parents that are involved in the child’s life and show interest in their child’s choices, activities or hobbies can have a great influence (White, Matawie, 2004). The parents that spend quality time with their children doing activities they like will create a strong parent/child bond. These parents will gain the respect of their child and it will be more likely for the child to come to them to talk through any issues they may be having. The adolescents with this close bond with their parents will also be likely to follow their parents’ moral values, because they do not want to disappoint their parents, and want to keep their good relationship with them. Personally, this was me during adolescence, when I was growing up my life pretty much revolved around baseball and my dad would always take me out to a park to practice, he even built me a batting cage in our backyard. I spent a lot of time with my dad because of this and I always had a good relationship with both my parents. My parents would tell you that I was a pretty easy teenager to deal with, I think that is partly because I have always had a calm, laid back demeanor, but also, I generally respected my parents and all their rules because I had a close relationship with them and I did not want to disappoint them. I knew the way they had raised me and what they would not approve of me doing and generally stayed away from anything I knew I should not be doing. Of course, I still did stupid things and got into trouble from time to time, but overall, I have a good moral compass because of my parent’s involvement in my life.
Parenting styles can also have an influence on an adolescent’s moral development. Adolescence tends to mark a period in life of rebellion and anger during which parents and the child often clash heads frequently during this time. The manner the parents choose to deal with issues during the time of adolescence can influence the adolescent’s willingness to accept the morals of their parents. Parents that are viewed by the adolescent to be critical or challenging can cause defensiveness in the child, and cause more anger or misbehavior in the child. It is the parents that engage in supportive discussion and talk out issues with their adolescent child that generally experience a greater level of moral reasoning in their child (Walker, Hennig, Krettenauer, 2000). However, all children are different and will react differently to each parenting style. During adolescence, parents may need to change their parenting style to match the child, some children may react negatively to an absolute authoritative parent that uses the “because I said so” reason and some might respect that parent’s authority. Just the same, some adolescents might respect the parent that is not so authoritative and talks out any issues, and some might take advantage of this parent’s lack of authority.
There are many influences on an adolescent’s moral development, but perhaps the one with the potential for the most impact is from the parents. Parents have the opportunity to be a good or bad role model for their child. The level of involvement in their child’s life can determine the parents influence on the child’s morals, as well as the parenting style they choose to implement rules and enforce punishments on the child. No two children will behave or think the same and parents should figure out what their child responds to the best, in order to have a positive influence on their child’s moral development through adolescence.
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