Michelle is sixteen years old and a conscientious student. Yet one day she gives in to the temptation to cheat on her literature exam, thus deceiving her parents and teachers who think so highly of her. It's Saturday night, and Rick has just earned his driver's permit. His friends ask him out to enjoy a few drinks, but he's well aware of how risky it is to drive while under the influence of alcohol. What should Michelle and Rick do? These are just two examples of the types of decision teenagers face every day, as they attempt to balance their needs and desires, on the one hand, and principles and rules on the other. During that delicate stage in identity-building, how does adolescents' ability to think in moral terms evolve? What role is played by families, schools, and peers in promoting or inhibiting teenagers' ethical development?
Anna Rita Graziani teaches Social Psychology at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.
Augusto Palmonari is professor emeritus of Social Psychology at the University of Bologna.