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Think. Discuss. Act. Ethics

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A Study Of Moral Dilemmas Of Early Adolescence

Mitchell, J.J. (1975, Fall). A study of moral dilemmas of early adolescence. Adolescence, p. 10.


The purpose of this research is to demonstrate the developmental nature of early adolescent moral dilemmas and to point out that they are often normal manifestations of growth.


The research investigated the most significant factors influencing moral dilemmas related to sexual behavior, independence, conscience, double standards, and conformity.


  • Sexual behavior creates a moral dilemma after the adolescent experiments with and introspects his or her needs and drive.
  • The pursuit of personal independence creates a moral dilemma after the adolescent violates one’s own personal beliefs or those of one’s parents.
  • Moral anxiety is as normal to the growth of conscience as muscular aches and pains are to physical growth.
  • The dishonesty required of a double standard behavior poses a moral dilemma for the adolescent.
  • The adolescent’s growing sense of his or her “self” demands that he or she respond to “inner” (psychological) as well as “outer” (social) needs.


  1. The developmental nature of early adolescent moral dilemmas must be informed and communicated to teachers as well as to students.
  2. The adolescent’s psychological needs for intimacy and belonging must be understood and channeled creatively.
  3. Education for youth must take place within the dynamic context of interaction and discussion, so that they can share their needs and values.
  4. The adolescent must be given some responsible tasks for which they are accountable.
  5. To help adolescents set, strengthen, and “own” their values, test them and even allow them to fail.

Anne Montague
© 2018 CYS

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