The changes that take place with regards to a person’s understanding of morality as they develop from infancy to adulthood are collectively known as moral development. This runs the gamut from one’s first exposure to moral principles and beliefs to the shaping and reshaping of one’s own moral positions as one’s experiences change. Morality is generally seen as those beliefs that shape how people treat one another as well as how concepts of social welfare, justice, and basic rights are perceived.
When considering the development of these various beliefs, it is important to take into consideration the various external factors that provide influence. Family members are some of the most influential in a person’s moral development; the church, if any, that one’s parents take one to as a child can help shape what one believes to be right or wrong. However, as one matures, peers take on a greater role in shaping one’s morality. Peer pressure can cause one to question the moral positions one has formed; delineating between right and wrong becomes increasingly complex as one is exposed to more perspectives and situations. Equally influential is society and culture. One’s moral upbringing might cause one to believe that premarital sex is wrong, but pressure from peers and media influences via television shows and popular music can cause one to question this belief. It is not uncommon for one’s moral principles to continue to change as one grows and matures, even into late adulthood. As a person grows, as one learns more, and as social norms and mores change, it is likely that one’s morality will also change.