1. Are essentially idealistic; have a strong sense of fairness in human relationships;
2. Experience thoughts and feelings of awe and wonder related to their expanding intellectual and emotional awareness;
3. Ask large, unanswerable questions about the meaning of life; do not expect absolute answers but are turned off by trivial adult responses;
4. Are reflective, analytical, and introspective about their thoughts and feelings;
5. Confront hard moral and ethical questions for which they are unprepared to cope;
6. Are at-risk in the development of moral and ethical choices and behaviours; primary dependency on the influences of home and church for moral and ethical development seriously compromises adolescents for whom these resources are absent; adolescents want to explore the moral and ethical issues which are confronted in the curriculum, in the media, and in the daily interactions they experience in their families and peer groups.
Moral development is defined as an individual’s ability to make principled choices and how to treat one another. During early adolescence, many of the attitudes, beliefs, and values that young adolescents develop remain with them for life. They move away from blanket acceptance of adult moral judgment to the development of their own personal values; however, they usually embrace the values of parents or key adults.
As noted, the increased capacity of young adolescents for analytical thought, reflection, and introspection characterises the connection between their intellectual and moral development.
Young adolescents also tend to be idealistic and possess a strong sense of fairness. As they progress into the interpersonal conformity stage of moral development, young adolescents begin to reconcile their understanding of people who care about them with their own egocentricity. They transition from a self-centred perspective to considering the rights and feelings of others. Gender affects how adolescents approach moral dilemmas—males view moral issues through a justice lens and females use an interpersonal care lens.
Young adolescents often pose broad, unanswerable questions about life and refuse to accept trivial responses from adults. They also begin to view moral issues in shades of gray rather than only in black and white. While young adolescents start to consider complex moral and ethical questions, they tend to be unprepared to cope with them.
Consequently, young adolescents struggle with making sound moral and ethical choices. Young adolescents can also be afforded opportunities to examine their own choices and the consequences of these choices. Further, teachers develop scenarios that prompt young adolescents to examine concepts of fairness, justice, and equity. School programmes or curricula can include a focus on societal issues such as the environment, poverty, or racial discrimination.