Individuals, both young and old, are constantly subjected to moral influence in today's rapidly evolving society. People’s morals are often established in their adolescent years, but may change continuously throughout their life. Thus, moral growth is simultaneous with physical growth. Morals differ from other behavioral terms — such as ethics and values — in that they directly relate to the actions within a society and whether they are right or wrong.
Parents are often regarded as their children’s biggest moral influence. Studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics have found parents to be their children’s biggest influence in regards to religion, education, and values. Poor moral habits can be set at an early age, and parents shouldn’t hesitate to act as moral leaders in their children’s lives before the ages of 6 or 7, which is noted as the Age of Reason. Siblings can also be a large moral influence by reinforcing or rejecting the morals introduced by their parents.
In school and social settings, individuals spend large parts of their young lives around peers. Friends and colleagues can have a larger moral influence than parents, depending on the intimacy of the relationships. Peer influences can be positive or negative, and social circles can heavily influence moral decisions. Recreational drug use is a popular topic while analyzing the decisions made within social environments. Studies have shown that those subjected to drugs in their peer groups are at an increased risk to try drugs themselves.
Movies, music, television and other forms of media can have a profound influence on moral behavior. Violence and crime is often romanticized in these mediums, and there’s widespread concern that frequent exposure to violent video games or gory films can desensitize youth to social issues of the kind. Studies have indicated that the entertainment industry has lost touch with the moral standards of much of its audience.
Other moral guides
Politics and religion also play a large role in guiding moral behavior. Morals beliefs on gay marriage, capital punishment and abortion have become major political issues within 21st century culture, dividing democrats and republicans alike. Prominent community figures such as preachers remain cautious of their actions, as they’re held to higher moral standards and typically try to set good examples. As a whole, morals can be both thoughts and actions. When those two merge, morals will become a vital part of a person's day-to-day decision making.