A certain amount of disagreement and mutual conflict with peers is expected among adolescents. To disagree with others who have different opinions or preferences is a normal aspect of the emergence of self-awareness and the development of a sense of one's uniqueness and identity. In the same way that differences of opinion and disagreements with adults are a normal part of adolescence, those with peers are a normative part of adolescent development (Cillessen, Antonius, 2002, p. 48)."
Communication, then, is a key building block in the growth experience of children that helps them to grow and experience healthy adolescent relationships that lead to healthy and productive self-constructs of their own identity. Communication, good lines of communication, begins at the family level of experience, and then carries over into the social setting. That Klebold's and Harris' parents were unaware of their behaviors, experiences, and feelings about school, lends insight into the adolescents' inability to communicate with their peers. These are adolescents whose own experience in communicating on the more intimate family level did not develop in a productive way. They were, in many ways, strangers; just as Klebold and Harris remained strangers to their school peers, and were never effectively able to communicate with those peers in a way that helped the peers see them as individuals like their selves.
Moshman says that we cannot limit the definition of morality to a general one (p. 51). It must also be applied in particular circumstances and in particular ones as well (p. 51). Moshman says, "For among accounts concerning actions, though the general ones are common to more cases, the specific ones are truer, since actions are about particular cases, and our account must accord with these (p. 51)."
Moshman talks about the broadness of the moral domain, too, as it might be undertaken in study (p. 51). It is a broad one, and would therefore involve a broad and complex level of research.
Social researchers John W. Wires, Ralph Barocas, and Albert R. Hollenbeck (1994) cite research that indicates that adolescent identity is not influenced by parental values (conformity and self-direction) (p. 361). Their research was not conclusive as to the relationship between family morality, defined here as conformity to the rules of right conduct, or "morality." These researchers could not detect quantitatively or qualitatively the connection between an adolescent's forming of his or her identity and the influence of their family experience (p. 361). They cited the need for further study to be able to develop a methodology by which to measure the connection in a way that might yield meaningful results, if any.
Where methodology failed, perhaps we can make arrive at conclusions based on intelligent observations of certain family environments. Take, for instance, a family that is socioeconomically impacted, and, because of that impact, is forced to live in conditions that are less favorable to an environment that would help the adolescent to develop or self-construct an identity that is reflective of socially aware values demonstrative of social norms, and ability to function within the framework of the greater society. Many people are able to arrive at the conclusion that grouping impoverished families together in settings that created specifically for poverty, is not conducive to an adolescent's ability to construct an identity that facilitates the adolescent's abilities to self-motivate above and beyond that environment.
Most people rightly conclude that environments designed to group impoverished families and people together is harmful, and does not produce healthy perspectives in adolescents of the world around them, and, logically, prevents them from developing healthy identities too. Since these kinds of environments are prone to higher rates of crime and incidences of violence, it is easily concluded that these environments will not yield adolescents with high levels of morality, because they have been forced to conduct their selves at a survival of the fittest level of social awareness.
Moshman talks about adolescent rationality and identity, saying that the nature of rationality is the development of meta-knowledge (p. 19). He defines this as increasing the awareness and control of one's own cognitive functions, and recognizing these functions in others (p. 19). Recognizing these functions in others would presumably have some measurable affect on the individual's perceptions of self, and in honing their own ability to develop meta-knowledge.
The development of meta-knowledge provides a broader range of reasoning ability, or rationality for the individual (p. 20). Moshman says that developing meta knowledge to the level where it allows functioning on the broader range facilitates the individual's ability to see beyond the obvious, and perhaps more limited options of choice (p. 19). Thusly, the individual would see more choices for his or her self, functioning at a higher level of rationality than those individuals who do not develop meta-knowledge levels of reasoning.
The Wires and Baroca study also failed to yield measurable and useful information about problem solving ability and identity status in adolescents. Wires and Baroca stated:
This study also failed to establish a connection between problem-solving and identity status. Prior research employing alternative solutions as a measure of problem-solving has been successful with adolescents (e.g., Compas, Malcarne, & Fondacaro, 1988), but has been most useful with pre-adolescent children. Problem-solving in adolescents has also been assessed via means-ends thinking (e.g., Kazdin et al., 1987a, 1987b), as well as with a scoring system for role-playing responses (e.g., Kazdin, 1987). Future studies in the area of assessing the problem-solving skills of adolescents may find it useful to compare the effectiveness of these various instruments (Wires and Baroca, p. 361)."
Problem solving, it might be expected, is one element that would contribute to the self-construct of an adolescent's identity. Successful reconciliation of problems would ostensibly create self-confidence, which fosters self-esteem, and these are good ingredients for individual identity. Wires and Baroca, however, were not able to make the connection in their study, and their recommendation is for further studies. These kinds of studies force us to make reasonable and rational conclusions based on social observations. It is reasonable and rational to conclude that an adolescent with a high level of ability to solve problems, will also be an adolescent who relates to the world around him or her on a moral basis, because their problem solving ability would allow them to reconcile problems that interfere with their ability to remain within the acceptable or normal confines of the larger society.
Research that gives more scientific and useful information for understanding the role of morals in the adolescent identity would serve society well. As is the recommendation of Wires and Baroca, it is hoped that continued research in this area will be conducted, but, again, it is possible to arrive at certain obvious conclusions as relates to morality and adolescent identity on more obvious levels, but when there is a lack of the obvious, as might have been the case with Klebold and Harris, studies would be useful in gaining meaningful insight so these kinds of violent incidents can be mitigated, if not altogether eliminated.
We can look to other cultures and social settings to gain insight in self-constructing adolescent identity. Some of that information, even though those societies or cultures are different, less complex, our own western society, we can find that the human psyche works in ways that has some fundamental basics to it that might help us to understand the development of adolescent identity. Barry Chevannes (2001) looks at developing identity along lines of gender in Caribbean society. It is the process, Chevannes says, whereby children from birth to adolescence, those very formative identity forming years, are shaped in values, customs, and behavioral norms that provide the framework for forming relationships in their lives that will reflect their individual identities (p. 14). Chevannes suggests that - whether we recognize that in our western society or not - that every society:
organizes many if not most or all human activities along lines of gender, and orders the relations between males and females in a manner that places females in a position subordinate to males. So universal is this that the question arises whether there is any natural, that is to say biological, explanation for the sexual division of labour and gender identity (p. 14)."
If we consider for a moment our western approach to child rearing, it becomes difficult to disagree with Cheavnnes' observation. In America, the identity of adolescent boys and girls is formed largely in middle school and high school settings. It is in these settings that adolescents form their bonds, test their values, and look to identify with others with whom they have things in common. To the extent that they are challenged with the problems of adolescence, they employ their abilities to rationalize in a manner that is in part learned from their family experiences, and in part from their peer group. These learning experiences and the forming of their identities are impacted by…