During adulthood, the adult continues to become enculturated in (or internalize) the values of the larger culture. The family and high school environments are no longer the predominate influence. The community attitudes, religious institutions, government, and legal system now become preeminent as the source of morality. Peer communities, which the person embraces for social reasons, can become the predominant influence. All are generally still rules based systems in which personal conduct is guided by some code of conduct. As a person's allegiance grows to these institutions, so does their moral reasoning to support these ideas of maintaining social order.
By the time we are adults, we have a paradigm of boundaries consisting of the beliefs of family, friends, school or career environment, laws, religious beliefs, our identity, and general attitudes about life (meta-narratives such as "If I work hard I will achieve the American dream"). All of these together constrain or compel our behavior.
Obviously not every person subscribes to the rules of the larger society. The more independent we are, the less likely we are to appreciate the laws that govern everyone, to which we feel we shouldn't be subject. Acceptance is a continuum, not an absolute.
As people enter adulthood, they have varying capacities for commitment. For example, sex, too often, is just fun without commitment. This is widely displayed in our wisdom institutions today, universities, as well as in our general society. People confuse true love with casual sex, or they simply go for recreational sex, and the next thing they know some are pregnant and have fatherless children, or have venereal diseases. Sex is somewhat linked to intimacy with a significant other, but has been completely divorced from any sense of commitment.
One survey found an alarming number (one third) of college men were willing to take unfair sexual advantage (essentially rape) of a woman when she was defenseless, if he wouldn't get caught.*4 Unrestrained use of alcohol precipitates regretful sexual contact in nearly half of men and women students.*5 These studies indicate that a third or more of college age people have a very irresponsible attitude toward self-restraint and sexual assault.
4. Women's Center, Boise State University. http://womenscenter.boisestate.edu/content/article.cfm?article_id=28.
5. Schubert, R. (1999, July). Sexual contact study surprises surveyors. Seattle-Post-Intelligencer.
A recent CDC study*6 showed that among single teens under 17, only 61% of women and 53% of men would be very upset if their sexual intercourse resulted in pregnancy. In the age 18 - 19 group, these numbers lowered to only 53 and 37%, dropping significantly. The life changing consequences of sexual intercourse that results in having a baby make little difference to over half of these young adults.
6. Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, National Survey of Family Growth 2006-2008http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_030.pdf
Early adulthood is a paradox to moral growth. At this stage, moral growth aspects such as commitment, require actual experience so that the person can gain a full appreciation of what commitment means and what long term consequences mean. It would be wonderful if young adults were prepared for becoming parents. At 24, I know that I wasn't. I remember leaving a sleeping baby under an upside down play pen to make a quick trip to the grocery store. In just a couple of years I looked back in utter disbelief at my behavior. In just a couple of years I had my own children and actual experience, so I could appreciate the consequences of my actions. Fortunately my wife and I had made a commitment to each other to enjoy a few years together before having children, so the transition to the isolation of parenthood would not be so difficult. Too many young adults arrive unintended at pregnancy without having enjoyed some time together.
I admire programs in the school system today that have young adults carry baby dolls with them 24 hours a day. It gives them practical experience of the consequences of bringing children into this world. Suddenly freedom is revoked, going to a party or movies is next to impossible, if you go to a grocery store you have to take a crying child with you up and down the aisles, and you are on the job 24 hours a day through feeding, sickness, gastronomic pains, inability to sleep - and it doesn't make any difference if you are tired, sick, or badly wanting to watch TV - you have to take care of this child.
The real task of early adulthood is learning what the long-term consequences of your actions are, good or bad, and learning commitment to those consequences.
Young adults also begin to grapple with the fact that the laws that guide our society, and even our moral behavior, are relative. For example, the 55 mile an hour speed limit imposed to conserve petroleum because of the oil crisis in the 1970s, was just about all that some people could take. They couldn't get their mind around this social imperative. To them it was just another example of government intervention. Another example, the birth control pill makes sexual behavior more appealing and less restricted - sex has become relative, and it is very difficult for people to deal with this new situation. In the 1980s, studies showed that fundamentalists, who have little or no flexibility in such matters, did not offer their young adults protection or advice on preventing pregnancy, so their young adults were more likely to become pregnant.
What we wrestle with in early adulthood is the social contract. We come to understand that it is better for everyone if society is organized and everyone follows the rules that make our world work better.
One difficulty with rules is that when they become too radical, they lose their effectiveness. People ignore them. On the other hand, rules for social groups that pledge voluntary commitment to things like sexual abstinence, often work for that group. Young adults and adults can learn to deal effectively with relativism, particularly when they are given the opportunity to wrestle with the moral challenges and make an informed and examined decision, particularly when it is reinforced by group behavior.
Sexual conduct is one major example of how at one point in our society rules definitely applied, at another point conduct was overlooked, and finally the rules seemed overly strict and became irrelevant. The European and US civilizations have gone back and forth on this issue for centuries. In Ancient Rome sexual license entailed complete freedom. Eventually the rulers realized that sexual conduct was causing major problems and clamped down on that license.
Loose sexual conduct in Europe resulted in the reaction of the Puritan age, which was exported to the US, where all sexual conduct, and even desire, were frowned on. Sex became socially limited to the act of procreation. (Of course, people who were no longer procreating continued to have sex.) It led to all kinds of problems involving sexual repression and prostitution for married men, and a general lack of sexual knowhow that resulted in women seeing doctors to get physical sexual release.
The sexual revolution in the 1960s, spurred on by attitudes developed during the first half of the 19th. Century and WWII, and the advent of devices or medicines that prevented pregnancy, and new rights for women such as voting rights, became the "free-love" environment that put all rules regarding sex in the trash bin.
In subsequent years, society's relativist attitude toward any rules regarding sex has illuminated sexual practices. Communications technologies such as widespread availability of R rated movies (VCR, DVD, movies on demand) and the Internet have created easy access venues to information about all sexual practices to people of all ages. The genie is entirely out of the bottle.
Children in puberty, and young adults are very curious about all of life. They don't want to miss a thing, and anything new or taboo is an area of interest. Peer involvement in sex exploration sucks in most of the young adults. It would be very difficult to return to strict laws regarding sex - they would be pooh-poohed and ignored. The challenge now is to find appropriate and effective ways to get it under control, because young adults don't have an appreciation for the potential problems that sexual activity can create.
Currently sexual activity among people of middle school to college is nearly devoid of the important concepts of responsibility, consequences, and commitment. It's just something to do that everyone is doing. Sex is exploration and recreation.
In a society such as ours today, where communication is instant and all information is available to everyone, keeping conduct like sexual activity restrained is very difficult. The rule is a relative rule, and would be difficult to impose as an absolute. Young adults are not capable of appreciating the consequences. England turned to advising oral sex in the school system to deal with the problem. That deals with unwanted pregnancy, but not venereal disease. But there is a good chance that organized youth can grapple with the issue themselves and come up with rules that they recommend following.
It is the action of caring that makes us learn what it means and become capable of making that kind of commitment. As the Buddha told his son, "Practice caring." Interestingly when surveys have been done of people age 24 and under, not only has it been shown that people are not fully able to appreciate consequences of their actions until around age 28, there have been no characteristics of the next stage of moral development shown at age 24. All of our lives we think we are adults, from age 6 to age 80. But while we may be adults, moral growth comes in stages, and we sometimes get stuck or just get stagnant in some of these stages and don't move forward.
Adults do something else that is vital to moral growth, they validate their moral principles. They clarify and illuminate the morals they live by until they are satisfied that they are true values. For some this amounts to little more than allegiance to a group that is authoritative and fits comfortably. For others, this is full blown reality testing - learning or proving everything the hard way. Most fall somewhere in-between these extremes.
Development in religion
Israel went through its "becoming an adult" stage also. King Solomon, a rule maker for society, and known as the wisest of men at the time, began wrestling with the more abstract issues of the law, and his musings are in the Book of Ecclesiastes. As shown in his actions, he found that kings have to compromise with other nations and with people within the nation, to maintain order. He did things that the priests would have found completely wrong, such as taking a foreign wife. He overlooked much of what his people did that was forbidden by Moses. What difference does any of this stuff make, he asks in Ecclesiastes. Are we all just dust in the wind? He seems to conclude that we should just eat, drink, and be merry. But what he seems to have meant is that we should take the journey and consider what is important, but not drive ourselves nuts trying to figure out the unfathomable God.
The Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Job are considered part of the "wisdom literature" in the Bible. They wrestle with absolutes versus relativism. Does God kill you when you break a law, as the good book says? No. Why not? Does God punish the wicked, as he says? No. Does God reward those who are righteous? No. The writers do not provide answers to these paradoxes, but ask us to consider them in our walk of faith.
Consider them we must. What does God ask of us? To do religious rites, or to treat our fellow man justly? Aspects of the Law came into conflict with each other. During the golden age of Israel, when Jereboam was king and the nation was wealthy and at peace, a prophet came onto the stage, Amos. A poor shepherd from a remote area, Amos had sharp words about the justice of God, or lack thereof, in the nation of Israel. He was outspoken about injustice to the point of clashing with the priests.
The situation for Amos then would have been like a farmer today from Wyoming going to Washington during the wealth driven stock craze of the 1990s and saying, "All you think about is your own wealth! You spend all of your time counting your money, bragging about it, and scheming to make even more. You think greed is good. As you hog all the money to yourselves, people around you get poorer and poorer, they suffer and die from lack of medical care, they lack opportunities, and they can't make a decent living, but you don't care. You go to your house of worship and act like you are all noble and moral and everything, but inside you are hollow and rotten as a bad egg. God despises the 10% of your wealth that you give to charity. He hates it when you darken the door of his houses of worship every week and every prayer time for your own self-praise. What he cares about is what you are doing for others. For your greed, you're going to be brought to the bottom of the lake and be the bottom feeders that you are. Your stocks are going to sink in 2002 and in 2008, and you're going to lose everything."
About that time a TV preacher would pop up and say, "These wealthy people and this wealthy nation are rewarded for their goodness. It is their right to ask for and have everything." That's exactly what happened in Amos' day when he made similar statements to the previous paragraph. The Priest Hezekia took Amos to task for his preaching. The outcome became one of the most important and influential arguments in Jewish history. Justice reigns supreme, overriding every other commandment. But that doesn't mean that worship isn't important. Worship helps us understand the imperative of justice. But the ritual of religion cannot be allowed to get in the way of the practical application of it. Worship being in the way of justice would be like the study of math preventing mathematicians from using math to solve real world problems.*7
7. Amos' encounter with Amaziah is very well illuminated in the Shalom Spiegel text Amos VS. Amaziah, printed by The Jewish Theological Seminary of America in its Essays in Judaism Series, No. 3.
This was the first time that the Law lost its absolute position. The Israelites were becoming adults. The law is important in our moral development. It is often the law that is the first to make us consider what is right and wrong in how we treat our fellow people. For example, the Civil Rights Laws that came out of the 1960s changed the behavior, and then the thinking (attitude change), about how minorities were treated in the US.
Not everyone in Israel was persuaded that Justice should triumph over rules. Giving adult examination to religious belief eventually helped split the nation of Israel. The Northern Kingdom, Israel, split away from the Southern Kingdom, Judah, because of differences in political outlook and strict interpretation of the Law. The Prophets railed against Israel with disdain. The Prophets foretold of attacks from neighboring countries because the people had not stayed close to God. (The Prophets mostly preached about justice, even in this context.)
After the Diaspora (forced exile when the land was conquered by Babylon), when some of the Jews were allowed to return to Israel and rebuild their Temple, the Sadducee sect believed that they had not stayed true to the Law (rules of God given through Moses), and exile was their punishment. They returned the Temple and the land to strict obedience to the Law. They believed that their behavior was not important just as long as they followed the rules, dotting every i. God was not a personal God - He was far away and all he cared about were rules.
The Sadducees were still the priestly class in Israel even at the time of Jesus the Christ. Jesus' interpretation of scripture, which allowed him to ignore rules on the Sabbath to do things like gather grain to eat and healing, allowed him to mingle with the impure foreigners and sinners, allowed him to offer forgiveness, and allowed him to talk about God as if in a familiar relationship. Jesus both deeply offended and challenged the Sadducees. To the Sadducees, rules simply could not be broken or reinterpreted, and the age of the prophets was over. But Roman political domination of the land, which brought Greek cultural ideas and practices into the land, could not coexist with the Sadducees and their strict interpretation of rules. The clashes were inevitable.
Jewish identity was fractured by the split in the Kingdoms, the Diasporas, and the various interpretations of scripture going on in the various sects, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes, and then the Christians. The land of Israel could not continue on to the next stage of moral growth until it resolved its identity crisis. Jesus, the Apostles, and even the former prophets pointed to a universal faith of which all nations and people could be a part, but could the nation resolve its problems and embrace this idea. This was possibly too big a change (paradigm shift), and too abstract for the Jewish leadership to embrace.
Conflict in the land continued until in 70 AD the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple and took full political control of the land. Judaism as a concrete geographical identity came to an end, although it remained as a very strong identity in communities. It became universal, in a sense, as it existed outside the borders of Ancient Israel. I think the story (stage play and movie) Fiddler On The Roof exemplifies the Jewish struggle to move from a rules based system to a concept based system of religion. (Not that it happened first in Russia in that era.) Not until the late 1940s did the Jewish nation rise again. (Note that the Jewish nation arose as Zionism, a political movement, which enabled Jews to return to their homeland.)
The prophets who preceded this time had made many calls for a universal faith in Israel that could extend to all people (House of prayer for all nations), not just Jews. This guidance basically went unheeded. Although people could convert to Judaism, foreigners could not enter the Temple, and the Book of Ruth called into examination the practice of excluding foreigners or non-family from familial land inheritance, even if as a widow of a Jew, balancing the need to observe the Law with the need to extend kindness.
Development of faith
By the time I left high school, I was a radio announcer and had my first college experience, and began to critically examine every aspect of my life, which took me into New Age thinking until I was 28. I thought to myself, if God wants to send me to Hell for following this inquisitory path, then so be it. I took responsibility for myself. I realized not only that rules might be relative, but our entire paradigm of belief might be relative. For the next several years I grappled with New Age thinking in a sort of universal morality in which rules played no part. I think I was kind of lost in that land without borders. Most activities that didn't hurt others could be justified, and it was good to help others. I really never moved beyond "God is love." Exactly what the full implications of that were wasn't something that I understood. My early training in religion left me with a more experiential/emotional grounding and enculturation that constrained me from immoral behavior during this time.
Fowler calls stage 4, Individuative-Reflective Faith. We examine the faith we inherited from others. We become influenced by social groups. Authority moves to within the self, and the person begins to take responsibility for his actions.
Many people remain in this stage, locked into an expression of personal responsibility through a group setting that defines the moral background. Going it entirely alone in matters of faith is outside the comfort zone of many people, and probably rightly so. We question, but unwilling to be the final authority we defer to others. It may not be until our personal experience in faith creates a clear demarcation that we seriously enter the next stage, and this may never happen.
It is the difficulty of relativism, and of rules losing their effectiveness, that we wrestle with in the next stage of moral development.
At some point in time the moral tenets that we espouse, informed by centuries of people, and proven beyond doubt by our experience, coalesce into a unified whole that is more than the sum of the parts. They form a profound principle that is unshakeable, above law or Law, that informs and influences every bit of our justice, our being, our way of life, and our behavioral interactions with others. Love. It is a barely fathomable principle of which we spend the rest of our lives plumbing the depths to get some sense of it.
Love is not meant in the touchy-feely sense. It is meant as compassionate care of or charity toward others. It's a love that says, "If my brother is suffering, so am I, and I will relieve your suffering." It's a love that says, "Do to others what you would have them do to you." It's a love that has respect for all people, regardless of their position in life or beliefs. It's a love that doesn't turn a blind eye to other's misfortune. It's a love that goes beyond justice to bring fairness and opportunity into other's lives.
In the beginning of life, we do things to get what we want. We can use either good things or harmful things. At some point this becomes barter or trade as we realize that if we do something for others they help us. Fairness soon pops into our lives in the way of laws or rules that keep the playing field level. Sooner or later we embrace these rules as things that help society function. After a while we realize that a lot of these rules are relative, and we can bend or even ignore them in certain situations. And then we realize that most of the rules are relative, and we can have a lot of freedom, but we live by them for the sake of others. And finally we realize that if we treat everyone with respect and love, our world, their world, the entire world is a better place for all.
Moral living then, as Fowler puts it, becomes not a seflish way of living, nor an ego constructing way of living where God is simply the image of ourselves seen in the mirror, nor a way of losing one's self and one's personality in eternal sacrifice, but a way of selflessly contributing to the world.
Note that this reference to ego is not intended in a demeaning way. Everyone should have a healthy personality with a healthy sense of esteem for one's self, and some of what we do in life is centered around constructing and maintaining a healthy identity and a healthy ego - keeping our personality (the essence of us) intact and healthy so that we meet the challenges of life and conquer them. A damaged or inadequate sense of esteem interferes substantially in an individual's life. But at some point our sense of our competencies and contributions are sufficient, not hot air, and we move from the stage of fulfilling our personal needs to a more "other" driven lifestyle that may include the entire world.
What I find problematic and warn about, about "ego," is that it is not well defined or understood in society, having various psychological definitions and various popular definitions, and it became the focus of childhood development. A sound sense of self is constructed by several factors, including building competence, accomplishments, having a place and purpose, and having a feeling of contribution to society. Too often adults try to protect their children from damage to their fragile egos by allowing them only to hear artificial praise. This puts people on a path of seeking artificial praise rather than building an effective personality. In reality, we face threats to our sense of esteem throughout our childhood and adult life, and a healthily constructed person is able to fend off those attacks. Hot air simply deflates when attacked.
In Israel, while "love your neighbor as yourself" was a commandment given by Moses, the word love is not used in the history of Israel in the Bible with charitable intent from one person to another. Even the prophets railed about justice, but not about love. Why? The commandments took a pre-eminent place in religious teaching. The first commandment, "To love the Lord your God with all of your being... and your neighbor as yourself," meant that you would put the commandments first, and this meant that you would always treat others well because the commandments spelled out in great detail how to treat others. For example, it was commanded that if your brother died, then you would take his wife and support her and bring her children. Kindness and charity to others was always a Jewish teaching. In today's Judaism, love of others remains a central teaching.
Despite the early commandment, Israel as a people (nation) had to go through all of the stages of moral development. As I outline in my book, Ontology of God - The Voices of the Ancients Speak, The Law became tempered by ideas about God's mercy, and then love.
In the ancient world, the Buddha, whose teachings are considered "Law,"*8 said, "So boundless be your love to all, so tender, kind, and mild... The rule of life that's always best is to be loving-kind."
8. The Dharma embodies the form of Buddhist scripture. It is the gateway to truth, with or without a teacher.
At the time of Christ, love became the focus. Love fulfilled the commandments. In the words of the Beatles, "Love is all you need."*9 Yet the reality is, we can't even begin to understand what love means until we have gone through our early moral and psychological development, and at that point understanding love becomes a life-long project.
9. From the song All You Need Is Love, by Lennon/McCartney.
By college at age 22, I had seen other cultures that were very different from my own, and studied other cultures, and was more concerned about universal morals. I was studying to be a psychiatrist (which I'm very glad I didn't become). In my own life, I didn't have much of a moral code except do no harm, and it was good to help others, which I did. At age 28, I read a Bible verse that reminded me of my heritage and that God would never let me go. I threw myself into religious fundamentalism for a year or so, and found it very helpful to relearn the rules I had forgotten or omitted in my youthful strict Methodist upbringing. I ascribed to fundamentalist values.
Another Bible verse kept nagging at me in my fundamentalism. It was the "Priest after the order of Melchizedek," who was the priest that Abraham went to when he entered the new land - an independent priest of God. Melchizedek symbolized my discomfort with the exclusivity taught by fundamentalists. By the time I was 30 I had outgrown fundamentalism and was in the ministry as a pastor in a mainline denomination, while studying religious studies and psychology at a state university. I had parsed fundamentalist doctrines, which many to me didn't pass the test of love.
By the time I was 40, I was beginning to realize how relative all of religion is, how similar different religions are, and how universal are the truths in them. Actually by age 32 I was already writing about the development of faith as seen in the Bible. By age 50 I was seriously critiquing religion. I knew there was great good and validity in religion, but I wasn't sure exactly what, given the slide in membership seen in the church. Beginning at age 28 I had identified one key element in religion: love. God is love. When the beliefs and actions of religion seem to contradict that, they are probably self-serving and incorrect.
Fowler calls stage 5, Conjunctive Faith, in which there is a sense of detachment from the issues, and a willingness to allow reality to speak. The person's own experience of truth becomes the test of other ideas of faith. Personally I call that a "Postmodern Limbo" in which we listen and reformulate our meaning paradigms. I think it's a time of deconstruction and looking for basic truths.
Fowler calls stage 6, Universalizing Faith. Stage 6 recognizes the imperatives of absolute love. It is heedless to self-preservation. He cites Mother Teresa as an example, as well as many leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Perhaps I'm just selfish, but I think that those who successfully negotiate stage 5 refine their values and construct a new belief and meaning paradigm that allows them to widen their perspective about love, and practice what they believe more fully. Perhaps they become selfless moral leaders, or perhaps they become focused on the contribution they think they can make. I think that the personality is influenced by God in construction, and is balanced against the needs of faith in this life, so that each person has a place and ability to contribute. This is fulfilling to most people.
I have sincere doubts that everyone is compelled to traverse from stage 4 through the morass of relativism, to become a self-directed and self-less person of faith. It can be dangerous territory in which many get mired, and is partly the subject of my coming book on transitions. But I believe that many do take this path. I believe that as a nation we have to continue on this path if we are to resolve conflict in this world.
Comments on moral, faith, and human development
Much of the US today seems to be locked into the moral stage of "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours," as if the entire world was a business relationship. The idea of society benefitting from laws seems to many to be something that is an intolerable intrusion in their lives, while to others laws are the restrictive fix for every problem. One way or another people react to the laws, making them an important part of their development. The idea of caring for others seems a burden too large to bear - we might collapse under that one. The idea that we should treat each other with love seems as welcome as a six-headed money eating dragon at a wealth entitlement party. Yet in the US we still have that mantra that anything is possible and attainable if we try. The commandment, "Get all you can and keep the government and others out of your business - absolute freedom and unrestrained capitalism," has not yet been argued against the commandment to love. As our religious institutions fade, the venues are becoming fewer and fewer for getting the consideration of moral issues out there, although many television writers actually do a great job.
As I said at the beginning of this, the progression of moral growth is not a linear process that proceeds from step 1 through step 6, completing each step as you go. Moral and faith growth closely parallels the growth of our ability to reason. We go back and forth. I know from my own experience that I was all over the place in moral development. In my senior year of high school, I was wandering around in step 5 seriously questioning religion, doubting God, and getting into New Age "universal" philosophy. I realized how relative all of civilization's rules were, and questioned them all.
I really think that we are introduced to such ideas as love very early, and as we mature in our psycho-social abilities we are able to embrace more of what love means. My personal observation of life is that we tread the same ground repeatedly until we have mastered something, rather than a linear progression from A - Z. Stage 4 I think for most grows into a somewhat comfortable idea of tolerance for differences. It is stage 5 that becomes truly pluralistic, and is able to see beyond the smoke screen of individual beliefs to the greater love beyond.
While it is great for understanding to classify faith and moral development in stages, as academics and others love to do, or as needed for the justice system, in reality, I doubt that we are all meant to go through 6 stages of moral development, and I'm not god - I can't decide for others what is a more valuable morality in their lives. Kohlberg, who I think did fascinating research, elevated moral principles and stages to a preeminent place in life, and overlooked in his question and answer format the wrestling that people have to do with other social aspects of moral decision-making. This type of moralizing and reasoning is illustrated in the movie Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad, in which the main character allowed himself to be shot on principal since his actions, however well intended, caused the death of a man's son. This "principal above everything" approach ignores the use of problem resolution and human impact (collateral damage). As Fowler cites in what Carol Gilligan's*10 work reveals, Kohlberg emphasizes duty without responsibility for the consequences. Interestingly it is women who are less apt to take this approach to moral problem resolution.
10. Referenced in Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian - Adult Development & Christian Faith, by Wayne Fowler. Fowler cites In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development, by Carol Gilligan.
I can see that each stage is necessary to growth. But if I had to say that some stage was good for people in various parts of life, I would say that law enforcement is basically a rules based system that needs rules based people, although they should not be without some idea of relativism and mercy. Judges need a more adult overview of that in which rules are more relative and the punishments are more relative. They need mercy and tolerance. Elementary school workers probably work best with rules, but they also need mercy and tolerance. Stage 4 seems to have a very necessary place in our world.
Identity is not all found within. It is forged through interaction with society using your needs, unique talents, competencies, personality (traits), and lack thereof, interacting with society's needs, to find a viable place - a "who am I?" that fits. Identity is essential to making commitments - otherwise the person is adrift in life. Currently the US seems to have an identity crisis. We puzzle over whether we are about freedom, about unrestrained capitalism and personal wealth or collective prosperity, about love or just dedicated self-interest in helping others. The crisis reflects the crisis in our people. Perhaps one day as a nation we will mature.
We have allowed the adolescent or young adult stage of development to stretch out to around age 28, before people make serious commitments in their lives. Until then they can play around in college, try a variety of small jobs, fool around with recreational sex, and avoid commitment. We look at commitment like it was some kind of glue that people naturally have in their brains. We overlook that commitment requires a sense of identity, a sense of competence, and a requires experiences that create commitment, for people to appreciate and make long-term commitments.
We have divorced experience from the lives of young adults. We expect young people to have adult perspectives and make adult decisions, but we keep them occupied in schools and sports where life experience is limited. We throw them into college or career and expect they will know what they want to do with their lives, and typically they have no idea. When they do arrive in a career, they often don't like it but are trapped. I think we do our young people a major disservice by isolating them from life.
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