By Ellie Seta
While walking through the parking lot of a local Walgreen’s, senior Billy Kouroupis found a wallet lying on the pavement. Expecting to find only a few dollars, he was suprised to find not only multiple credit cards and a social security card but also $1,758 in cash. He was then faced with a very difficult decision, whether or not to return it.
According to Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development, when adolescents reach 11 years old they begin a new stage in moral development when they begin to make decisions based on the what is the right thing to do, in contrast to previous stages when an adolescent makes a decision for a reward or to please an adult.
However despite Kohlberg’s Theory, many teens today struggle with this concept. As found in an Ohio State University study on teenagers and decision making, the most important step in making a decision is to evaluate the problem, as well as the solution.
While, based on the information in the study, this is the most important in the decision-making process, it is also the most neglected step by teenagers.
Two days after finding the wallet, Kouroupis eventually returned the wallet to its owner, despite the influence of his friends.
“I really thought about keeping it,” Kouroupis said. “But I felt bad because it basically had her life in there.”
Kouroupis said his parents have always instilled in him the importance of making the right decision.
Psychology teacher Peter O’Hara said parents hope their kids make good decisions, but with the influence of peer groups and social interactions sometimes it can be hard to control. He said during the teenage years it is normal to sometimes make bad decisions because of the lack of input from their parents.
“(The teenage years) are the first time in their life when they are forced to decide for themselves and not just do the right thing because of their parents,” O’Hara said. “It is only natural to rebel at some point.”
Kouroupis said he does not think a lot of teenagers would have done what he did. “There are just a lot of untrustworthy people,” Kouroupis said.
While O’Hara said parental influence plays a big part in teh decision-making of their kids, he also said there is definitely a correlation between religion and making moral decisions.
However, psychology teacher Robin Pletcher warns that even though religion does cause some people to make good moral decisions, this is not always the case.
“This does not mean if you are not religious then you won’t make moral decisions,” Pletcher said. “(Religious people) just have more of the guilt.”
Pletcher said making moral decisions is a process that is learned behavior. She said that the more experience a person gains, the more they begin to realize the consequences for their actions, which not only affect themselves but others as well. She said soon after this realization, making moral decisions becomes much more natural.
Kouroupis said in the end he felt he made the right decision, and the lady was very grateful he returned her wallet. He is also glad that he decided to ignore his friends.
“It was the right thing to do,” Kouroupis said. “Only good things can come from (doing the right thing).”
KOHLBERG’S STAGES OF MORAL DEVELOPMENT
This theory contends that moral reasoning has six stages, each better equipped to respond to moral dilemmas than the previous stage
Stage 1: Punishment-Obedience Orientation
Stage 2: Naively Egoistic Orientation
Stage 3: Good Boy-Nice Girl Orientation
Stage 4: Law and Order Orientation
Stage 5: Social Contract Orientation
Stage 6: Universal Ethical Principle Orientation
HAVERFORD.EDU / SOURCE