1.1 Definition of Morals
Morals are standards in the society to compare what is good or bad depending on the environment or the people involved. They vary from place to place i.e. what could be termed as wrong in one scenario maybe different in another. Morals are usually used to compare an individuals’ action according to society’s expectations. Morality is a subject that is widely used in Religion. It is used to guide people on doing what is right and avoiding what may be termed morally wrong. In religious contexts, morality is followed with more emphasis than other aspects of society. Over the decades, standards of morality have been dwindling from society to society; this can be attributed to changing perceptions across generational circles. Morality today is now characterized by what could have been termed as immoral in the past.
Morals fall into a number of categories according to Walker (2006). They can be classified into codes of conduct, personal or cultural values and social mores. Codes of conduct usually dictate the relationship between people in the work place. However, morality rules and regulations are developed according to what suits a society, organization or individual. The clear cut definition between right and wrong is usually brought about by the fact that such definitions bring about harm or punishment (Stace, 1975). Morality is however characterized by judgment or sometimes greeted by ignorance to those who don’t understand it quite well. It remains understood by many as a body of rules and regulations meant to govern individuals or groups. This study seeks to find out the declining moral standards in school children. This has been greatly influenced by a number of aspects in the society. However, moral standards have greatly declined among school going children as compared to earlier generations.
1.2 Statistics regarding moral studies on students
Students fall into an age group that is vulnerable to their peers and the media. Most high school and campus students are going through a phase of trying to create an identity for them. This phase in life leaves them vulnerable to negative external influence that may lead to a compromise of their virtues and morals. Bolton (2009) notes that more students are now engaging in practices such as deception and stealing, among other vices considered morally wrong. This can be noted in the enormous number of cases being reported to school administrations regarding students found cheating in exams (Bolton, 2009).
In a survey of almost 30,000 students in 100 schools, 64 % of students admitted to cheating on an exam in the past one year and over 38% have admitted to doing it more than once. 36% say they have plagiarized over the internet (Bolton, 2009). Nowadays, Bolton (2009) notes that it is easier to get away with certain crimes like cheating unlike in the past. It even seems normal for students to cheat in exams and for the slight majority, who wouldn’t want to do so, would find someone else cheating off them (Bolton, 2009). In Yale University a case is documented by Robinson (1995) of two Jewish students who objected to the requirement for all first and second year students to reside in campus. This was from a point of view that staying in campus dorms infringed on their religious principles. Levels of immorality were cited by the two students as the major reason for wanting to be allowed to stay off campus (Robinson, 1995). This exposes the high levels of immorality experienced even in one of the world’s most prestigious institutions.
This sort of moral decadence runs deep in the society as can be supported by Baron (2005) he contends that students have really changed over the years morally. Today cases are heard of students killing each other, dressing indecently, engaging in sexual intercourse at very young ages and these entire misdeeds mirror on the failure by society to provide proper guidance to the students. The level of moral rot continues to eat on the very bedrock future generations are supposed to rely on. Morals are beyond doubt the back bone of a society. However, Baron (2005) notes that children try to live up to the expectations of the society. Any little behavioral traits picked up, translate into the fulfillment of one goal; acting normal. In this regard, it can be noted that the society is a great contributor to the way the young are brought up.
Student.com (2010) brings out the correlation between morality and happiness. It argues that the society today is very judgmental, a strike should be balanced between what makes an individual happy and what is morally accepted. Once the point of happiness is identified, morals should be built along these lines. (Student.com, 2010).This would be a change in the way morality is perceived, but laxity in moral standards may only lead to more devastating effects than is presently witnessed. Peoples’ levels of happiness vary, and their definitions are no different. An effort to tailor morals to suit ones idea of happiness may not be very practical because of the different ideas of happiness people possess.
1.3 School Children (Why school children as the case study?)
School children are usually a mirror of the society. Poor parental guidance or proper guidance to the young kids will always reflect on how they conduct out themselves. A true depiction of moral study will be best explained through the eyes of young kids. This age group is usually more pure in mind than older age groups. Information retrieved from school children is likely to be much reliable than from older folks who may want to protect their image. School children are under an age group where personality is still being defined and it’s at this point various factors act to shape up the final personality.
These factors are easily identifiable in young children. Young people don’t have much history that can be said to affect a child’s morals unlike much older age groups. Older people have an already defined sense of self that has been built up over time on a lot of life experiences. A study on morals from older individuals would yield varied results. Young people are also easily affected by environmental influences, the opposite can be observed from other older age groups who have a more fixed mind frame. A flexible mind would show what factors lead to its decisions. School going children also operate in an environment worth much scrutiny: the school. Schools provide a controlled environment where closer studies can be done. Pooling of many young kids together easily shows varied traits in play against each other. For example, it would be interesting to note how two kids of the same age but with different upbringing would behave in the same environment. It is because of these reasons that young kids remain a good sample of study (Hyman, 1994).
1.4 Comparison of past moral standings and today’s
When analyzing past and present moral standings, emphasis should be made on the context the study is to be done. This is so because morals come from very different sources. Morals dictated by culture would be better analyzed from a single cultural point of view. For example a cultural analysis of American culture should be in relation to the different aspects of American culture (how were American morals in the 1980s as compared to the 2000s?). It would be however, unfair to compare culture in general and evaluate it from a general stand point. For example, the African culture is quite different from European culture and should be analyzed differently.
In the American society, morals have been greatly shaped by the media as compared to the 1950’s. In a survey by the culture and media institute cited in (Harrell, 2010), 74 % of Americans believed that the nation was in a state of moral decline, a wide majority (64%) believed that the entertainment and media industries had a big role to play in the outcome of this statistics. Such moral changes can be depicted in language dressing and general lifestyle aspects. School children tend to imitate what they see in the media and entertainment circles.
Harrell (2010) being a child of the fifties, she recalls the television shows being aired then, for instance; Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, among many were shows and programs based on moral teachings. They were able to teach what is right or wrong (Harrell, 2010). The society back in the 50s was more conscious of their moral expectations. This has tremendously changed over the years. In comparison, shows being aired today are a complete turn around from what used to be aired then. They promote disobedience of the law, alcoholism, premarital sex, rebellion, violence, disobedience, among other vices detrimental to the society (Harrell, 2010). The media has a great responsibility to teach the young generation through the programs and shows they air. Its impact is very huge in shaping up what the society deems as moral or not today.
The society is more influenced by the celebrity lifestyle today as compared to the 50s. Technological changes that have taken root in the society have also been widely incorporated in the way society functions. This is probably a medium through which American children have used to shape up their perspectives of morals. Television and media uptake has changed tremendously today as it was in the past. It has become nothing more than an obsession to American children (Essling, 2002). The average American child presently has access to all these forms of devices used to relay information either through normal broadcasts or technological appliances, practically at the convenience of their bedrooms. Though some parents try to restrict their children by advising them to watch prerecorded programs, the impact the media and technology has on moral upbringing can’t be assumed. The influence of media today can be compared to the influence family members had in the past. Family was the primary source of moral instillation to the young. Their interpretation of moral codes of conduct was majorly picked up as the correct moral interpretation of the society by the young. Efforts have been substituted by the media in today’s society.
1.5 Moral social trends being experienced today
Stewart (2010) identifies the youth today as greatly ignorant from the kind of bad morality being witnessed in the society. William (1958) says that “the best evolutionary is a youth devoid of morals” (p.126). Children nowadays are taught to be more rebellious and they perceive their parents as a representation of the past generation. Disregard to parental advice is therefore witnessed in the society with most youth being quick to dismiss whatever advice given by older people. This destroys the sanctity of the society, which is beyond doubt the bedrock of the society (William, 1958). Such sort of detrimental trends are picked up from movies which perpetrate the idea of a society centered on the love for sex, money and self (Stewart 2010). It’s not uncommon to find a child telling a parent to “grow up” in today’s society. These are the kind of trends being experienced in the society today. Children have become quite defiant to their seniors and a “know it all” attitude can be witnessed in the way they carry out themselves. Stewart (2010) is of the opinion that Americans today are hiding behind a false sense of security instigated by the media. He argues that the sort of negative media portrayal of the society makes the detrimental values seem normal to the average child (Stewart 2010).
2.0 Theoretical framework.
2.1 Influence of Family history on children’s behavior.
There is a significant relation between Parental behavior and a subsequent effect on a child’s morality. Studies conducted have found out that children tend to emulate the behaviors of their parents at a very young age. Associated Press (2005) reported that there is a direct link with teens who smoke to past parental behavior. Parents who smoked had a more likely chance of raising kids who would smoke as well. Parental behavior is observed to orient the child with whatever traits the parent might be exhibiting. It wouldn’t look abnormal for a kid to drink because from observation through the parents, drinking only seems normal.
A research study cited in CBS Interactive (2010) exposes the impact of parents on their children. It exposes how parental care and love can impact on the morals of their children. Children who felt loved by their parents were less likely to engage in sexual activity, abuse of drugs or any other detrimental practice way into their teen life. It was also clear that parental influence goes way into a child’s teen life. The impact might be more long lasting for some kids. A further federally funded study published in the journal of American Medical Association but cited in CBS Interactive (2010) also exposes the fact that parental expectations influence a child’s behavior especially around the 12th grade. The study encompassed more than 12,000 7th-12th graders.
These findings probably act in contrast to popular belief that parental control seizes after a kid is in adolescence. This disapproves the fact that teenagers are more affected by peers during teen hood. Parental influence is usually underrated but it can be seen from studies that it is more important to a child’s growth than previously thought. There lays more ground for further research.
2.2 Effect of Divorce and broken up families
The society today is characterized by a high number of divorce cases. This is quite different from the past where marriage was perceived as a life time commitment. Couples tend to separate more frequently than it was in the past. This has an effect on children who find themselves entangled in such kind of squabbles. It has an effect on how they perceive relationships between individuals or the opposite sex as well. The effects of broken up families and distraught marriages runs deep. Not only are children affected, but the entire family and extended families as well. This happens because of highly emotional attachments to one or both of the parties involved. It leaves children stack in the middle of the rift with a choice to choose between one of the parents.
Parker (2010) singles out the fear of change as one factor why children dread divorces. Change is one thing very eminent in separation, it’s always common for parents to go their separate ways and the child has to adapt to such adjustments. Not only does the child lack attention from one parent, he/ she looses on the attachment from one side of the extended family (Parker, 2010). A change in routine is also experienced by the child; change in school, meals, friends, bedtime e.t.c is almost impossible to avoid.
During separation, Parker (2010) points out that a child is left with the frightening notion that he/ she has lost one parent and may lose another. This is very common especially among children who have parents who may never want to see eye to eye with one another. Apart from dealing with the changes expected, children are left to feel very insecure from the lack of one parent in their life. This creates a sense of need for the child in wanting to feel loved and may impact on future relationships.
Children lose attachment to already familiar surroundings and have to seek new neighbors, pets and sometimes siblings when parents decide to split their children. Furthermore, children have to cope with the tensions that may be experienced between the parents. This is worsened in situations where some parents may want to turn the child against the other parent. A situation totally unbearable for the child is created and it may have quite long lasting detrimental effects for the child. Effects of such events are usually underplayed by most parents who may never see the need beyond letting go off a partner (Parker, 2010).
Some children exhibit tendencies of aggression and defiance when they can’t deal with divorce quite effectively (Parker, 2010). Most parents assume this to be a normal occurrence in teenagers so such symptoms may easily go unnoticed. Parker (2010) advices that parents should note when, such tendencies of aggression and defiance are witnessed. In a child exhibiting symptoms of divorce, effects such as aggression can be observed at the period right after separation.
Some children take divorces quite personal with the notion that they might have one way or the other contributed to the divorce. Such children tend to behave in a perfect manner in a bid to bring the parents back together. These children go out of their way to act without fault so that the parents won’t see the need for a divorce (Parker, 2010). It might further compound into depression when the child notices no change of situation. This leads to further withdrawal by the children and may lead to threats of suicide especially in cases where the child feels somehow responsible for the separation (Parker, 2010). Parents should take note of the effects separation might have on their kids. A long term effect is usually noted in the way children perceive what is morally right or wrong especially when it comes to relationships.
2.3 Impact of drugs
Young (2010) identifies the acquaintance of drugs through three distinct channels for children; through the mother, environment (society) and through own use. The effect of drug abuse is usually felt through the society especially in cases of crime and accidents. Expectant mothers also predispose their unborn children to alcohol effects which might have a long term psychological effect on the children. Alcohol is known to have quite severe detrimental effects on the society and more so, to children through observation from parental drug abuse. Alcohol consumption among the youth keeps on increasing and they are more predisposed to it now, than in the past.
Children who have been predisposed to alcohol by their families have a higher chance of abusing the substance but children prenatally exposed to alcohol also develop a special “high risk” group. Children are bound to grow up in the way society treats him/her. Studies have also been shown to connect biological forces like previous prenatal exposure of children and their general behavior. In the period between August 1992 to June 1993, Los Angeles county reported an average of 243 referrals (3.7% of all cases) most of which were referred to the children services for prenatal exposure to drugs (Young, 2010). Such children prenatally exposed to drugs are more likely to have a problem in taking care of their children when parenthood knocks. Cases of underweight children being born have also been witnessed especially to mothers previously exposed to heroine and methadone (Young, 2010).
Young (2010) reports of an increase in the prevalence rate of drug abuse among school children. There has been an upward uptake of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana in schools as reported by the crime and prevention centre of the office of the Attorney general cited in (Young, 2010). Abuse of alcohol is considered most common among teenagers. However, male teenagers were considered more notorious in drug abuse than their female counterparts in the study done on Californian teens. This high prevalence can be attributed to the high level of drug exposure teenagers are subjected to. Similar results were established on non school going children with 645 of this group between the age group of 15 – 17 having reported to have abused Marijuana, 25% reported using cocaine and 21% using inhalants (Young, 2010). The level of drug abuse is considered extensive among teens. The figures are alarming, and it’s even more worrying as these statistics continue rising by the day.
The effects of drug abuse cannot go unnoticed because it has a direct impact on the behaviors of children. It is even more worrying to note the reaction from the society about alcohol and drug abuse. The media still embraces shows and programs that perpetrate this vice in the society for example cocaine abuse in the 1980’s by programs screened during this period justifies the act and teenagers blind to it’s effects, perceive it as normal. Corporate sponsors affiliated to companies producing alcohol and cigarettes have also been able to sponsor various social events where their products are advertised in vigorous market campaigns. It is how ever interesting to note that the effect family has on pre disposure of teens to alcohol remains very prominent in the society. The of pre disposure from prenatal abuse can’t be compared to family influence though (Young, 2010).
2.4 Abuse from parents and family
Children suffer physical and emotional abuse from their parents and family. Most abuses are carried out by the child’s family with few documented cases having happened at other venues like schools organizations and other forums. Turton (2008) identifies different forms of child abuse among them being sexual, physical, and emotional abuses. Neglect also falls in this category. What constitutes abuse is a highly debatable subject and open to interpretation depending on where one is from. However, the general definition of child abuse is the neglect or use of a child that may cause detrimental physical or psychological injuries (Hoyano, 2007). Turton (2008) identifies emotional abuse as the most difficult form of abuse to define. Anything from name calling, ridiculing, degradation criticism, humiliation, withholding information among others would be termed as abuse (Turton, 2008). Abuse may be internalized by the child and later exhibited in withdrawal by the victims. Some victims also exhibit tendencies of blaming themselves for the abuses and may try to overcompensate for what they think is their fault.
Parents who depict abusive tendencies are more likely to have been abused during their childhood. In some cases, this is a reflective tendency of underlying issues to the parent. Children who fall victim are less confident about themselves and a long term effect on self esteem may be observed. This becomes quite hard for the child to over come considering the duration a child is subjected to the abuse. Some children tend to internalize the abuse and take it personally concerning what is being said about them. Such sort of ideology may take long for a child to overcome and he/she may live with it right through adult life.
According to the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse (American) cited in (Turton, 2008), neglect contributed to 545 of confirmed cases of child abuse. Physical abuse contributed to 22% and sexual abuse was 8%, emotional abuse stood at 4% while other forms of child abuse were 12%. A UNICEF report also cited in (Turton 2008) identified neglect as the number one form of abuse among single parent families as compared to families where both parents were present. Neglect may encompass lack of adequately taking care of the child’s financial needs or lack of provision of a child’s basic needs like clothing food and shelter. Children pre exposed to neglect develop personality disorders and might experience difficulty in handling their infant’s needs during adulthood.
The daunting effects of child abuse can be overcome through therapy to treat post traumatic stress symptoms (Turton 2008). Constant therapy sessions seek to improve parent – child relationships especially after incidences of domestic violence. This is the most effective way of dealing with emotional effects experienced by the child depending on the kind of abuse experienced. They may be done in different forms including group, play and art therapy (Turton 2008).
2.5 Racial and Sexual harassment
Sexual abuse may be showing indecent materials to a young child, viewing the child’s genitalia, use of children for pornographic reasons among other definitions. Sexual abuse is definitely traumatic and its effects may last for a long time. Korbin (1983) identifies withdrawal among one of the many symptoms children exhibit as one of the symptoms to sexual abuse. The fear of victimization also stands out to dictate the way victims tend to view the opposite sex. This definitely changes the way a child may view a member of the opposite sex especially in future experiences. Sexual abuse especially from members of the family may sum up to incest and this may have longer lasting effects to the child. Cases of child sexual abuse have been on the increase especially from close family members. Victims from this vice are totally disoriented and may even suffer physical injury which might last with them forever.
There is also a relation between child sexual abuse and complex personality disorder or addictive behaviors among victims. Statistics cited in Crosson (2008) estimate that about 15-25 percent of women have been sexually abused during childhood and (5-15) % for men. Most of child sexual offenders were noted to be close associates of the victims and usually family members. The study puts the statistics among victims abused by close acquaintances at 30%. 60% are termed to be close friends not in the family circles but 10% were total strangers (Crosson, 2008). This study exposes the extent to which families impose child abuse with the study pointing a finger at Fathers, Mothers, Uncles, Brothers, and Cousins as the biggest culprits in sexual offences.
The effects of racial abuse still have the same negative effects as sexual. The worst forms of prejudice actions are based on a child’s race. It’s shocking to note the levels racism has affected the general American society and this has impacted in almost all social aspects including employment, sourcing of social basic amenities, politics, school, among others. Barter (1999) identifies the effects of racism as varied across gender and age groups. This has among others resulted in poorer health, poverty and low educational standards for racial victims (Barter, 1999).
Racial effects can emancipate through bullying, or violence to victims in the society. Bullying of children on racial grounds has an effect on the child’s moral growth. Not only in the American society does Racism go on but its manifestation cuts out through societies across the world. Racial minorities have been observed to experience name calling that maybe derogative or insulting to their communities. Sometimes this stretches far beyond persistent name calling and may lead to violent attacks of victims in some cases. Research has observed that in schools where there are a few racial minorities, there is a higher chance of such students being targeted through racial abuse.
The lack of support groups has been identified to worsen the situation as victims are left to grapple with the effects all by themselves. Long exposures to racial discrimination may have long reaching effects to children if not handled at an earlier age. There is a higher chance of racial prejudice also building on the victims and they may in turn treat other people with the same level of prejudice. Victims having had to experience violent racial remarks may also develop strong hatred towards children of the victimizing race. It’s however sad to note that racial abuse may impact negatively on children who are very innocent and haven’t done anything wrong to warrant such kind of racial discrimination.
This is especially worse when children are exposed to racial remarks and prejudice from their own families. Children coming from families of mixed parental racial origin are more likely to experience acts of racial violence or verbal racial remarks. This is observed more in children who may have a white and black parentage. They usually witness racial remarks from the wider extended families. Such children exposed to racism from the family context may develop high levels of negative racial opinions about others of the same race or low self worth of themselves.
Tackling racism should be done from a much wider context than having to deal with the victims only (Barter, 1999). It’s been observed that racial perpetrators tend to justify societal opinions through acts of racial prejudice on their victims. This therefore exposes the need for racism to be tackled on a wider concept of societal racial perceptions. Barter (1999) suggests that more emphasis should be made in trying to change the perceptions of parents, uncles, cousins and the wider extended family because this is where the children get to learn about racial opinions exhibit the same racial discrimination tendencies on other children.