This week’s questions: How do we develop our ethics? What are the primary sources for us to develop our ethical position?
I believe that developing our ethics and our ethical position happens at a fairly young age for most people. Based on my own observations, I would say that most of the ethical development in a person occurs between the ages of 6 and 14 years old. These are the years when a person really begins to observe what goes on around them, when a child would ask a lot of questions, and when they would really start to understand the world around them.
Much of our ethical development comes from our parents. They are the people we look up to in every facet of our lives, but especially in our younger years. As children, when we see or hear about something from our parents that they really didn’t like, we ask them questions as children do, and we learn why they didn’t like whatever it is that bothered them. It’s through this kind of behavior that we develop much of our ethical position. If a parent is bothered by an ethics related decision, the young child will learn their parent’s ethical stance on the issue, and will (most likely) adopt the same stance.
Of course, there are other factors besides our parents. Other prominent figures in our lives also help develop our sense of ethics. Perhaps for one person it was their sixth-grade teacher, or for another it was their soccer coach. Maybe one child grew up with their uncle, and that uncle was a major ethical role model for them. But regardless of who any given person’s ethical role models were (besides their own parents, most people probably couldn’t tell you who their role models were), it’s some combination of the people around us that shape who we are and what we believe is right and what is wrong.