Religion and spirituality are likely to have an impact on many individuals and their understanding of morality. This is a gradual process for all persons and may or not be impacted by exposure to religious and spiritual values. An article by McDaniel et.al (2010) addresses these objectives in greater detail and identifies some of the most important constructs that are associated with moral development throughout the life span. This article supports the belief that shame, empathy, and guilt are related and that these also have an impact on spirituality in different ways (McDaniel et.al, 2010). It is important to recognize the value of these differences in addressing the moral code and in determining how morality impacts human actions, thoughts, and perspective (McDaniel et.al, 2010). Different approaches to morality appear to associate with different emotional responses; therefore, this relationship and its impact on moral development will be addressed in the following paragraphs.
The article explores a number of multi-construct models that are likely to have an impact on moral development throughout the life span, given that these different components are derived from different areas, such as cognition and human emotion (McDaniel et.al, 2010). Therefore, it is important to identify the challenges and opportunities that spirituality and religion introduce in different ways during various stages of growth and maturity (McDaniel et.al, 2010). From these perspectives, morality is a constantly evolving process that appears to mature at a similar level to brain cognitive functioning, while also considering individual circumstances and how these impact core moral values and beliefs (McDaniel et.al, 2010). These ideas demonstrate the importance of developing new approaches to support individual growth and maturity through faith and spirituality (McDaniel et.al, 2010).
This particular study included 258 participants of college age at a Midwestern university in the United States, with 63 percent females and 37 percent males at an average age of 20 years, 11 months, with a majority of participants being Caucasian and primarily Christian (McDaniel et.al, 2010). This participant population provided an important framework for consideration, as this group possessed a high level of diversity that was beneficial in identifying the issues that were most conducive to a widespread perspective of religion and spirituality (McDaniel et.al, 2010). The use of a Self-Report Family Inventory, Version II addressed the degree of family dysfunction, the Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale-Revised was used to identify beliefs and spiritual involvement, and the Moral Judgment Test, which provided information regarding moral judgment competency, along with other questionnaires (McDaniel et.al, 2010). In evaluating the questionnaire responses, it was determined that many of the participants had dysfunctional families, they were more often spiritual than not, they are more empathetic, they have lower moral judgment, and they have higher guilt (McDaniel et.al, 2010). These factors support an understanding of a cross-section of the college-age population who has mixed observations and perceptions regarding spirituality and the moral framework; in particular, moral emotions and spirituality are connected and demonstrate a need to address guilt, shame, and empathy and how they are influenced by spirituality in a complex manner (McDaniel et.al, 2010).
It is believed that by addressing these findings more closely, there is likely to be an improved recognition and understanding of the need for moral education as it shapes individuals and society in different ways (McDaniel et.al, 2010). This enables educators to address moral development more closely in the classroom in order to identify specific challenges that are associated with negative behaviors in many children and adults, and the causes of these behaviors (McDaniel et.al, 2010). Moral development will demonstrate the importance of new perspectives and challenges in order to achieve the desired level of moral growth in individuals throughout the life span (McDaniel et.al, 2010).
In exploring the multi-construct model further, it is evident that there must be considerable emphasis placed upon the ability of individuals to learn and to acquire new forms of knowledge in the classroom setting. However, other factors must also be considered that will have an impact on outcomes and the development of new strategies for their own growth and development, including the expansion of their own morality in different ways (Santrock, 2012). This process requires an effective understanding of the moral issues that are prevalent in the lives of young people and how these evolve throughout the life span to support ongoing growth and maturity on many levels (Santrock, 2012). These concerns also demonstrate the impact of moral beliefs and decision-making on the life span, particularly when different perspectives intersect at different times (Santrock, 2012).
An individual’s moral compass must recognize the importance of different factors and approaches that are used to develop effective outcomes and levels of growth and achievement. It is important to emphasize the relationship between such factors as guilt, shame, empathy, and moral judgment as they occur throughout the life span. T hese factors play an important role in shaping human beings and their own moral belief system so that they are able to recognize the value of moral decision-making and its impact on their lives. This process also engages individuals in the context of their ability to grow, thrive, and learn from past experiences in a manner that is consistent with ongoing moral development and maturity that occurs throughout the life span.
- McDaniel, B.L., Grice, J.W., & Eason, E.A. (2010). Seeking a multi-construct model of morality. Journal of Moral Education, 39(1), 37-48.
- Santrock, J.W. (2012). A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development, 6th Edition. Humanities & Social Sciences.