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Moral Talk Across the Lifespan

Creating Good Relationships


Edited By Vince Waldron and Douglas Kelley

Grounded in path-breaking research but written in an accessible, engaging style Moral Talk Across the Lifespan explores how our most fundamental moral commitments are shaped by crucial conversations with family members, romantic partners, and friends. Taking a lifespan approach, the authors demonstrate that moral growth is a continual process, one stimulated by transitions (e.g., leaving home for university) and disruptive events (serious illness). With chapters penned by leading relationship scholars, the volume contributes original thinking, data, and innovative theoretical pathways for researchers. For instructors it explores pressing moral questions encountered by students in their own relationships with romantic partners, friends, parents, and other family members. When is revealing a secret the right thing to do? Is revenge ever a worthy response to an insult or sleight? Why are young adults persuaded to accept some of their parents’ values but not others? Is there a right (or wrong) way to support a parent facing a terminal illness?
Moral Talk Across the Lifespan offers a stimulating blend of social science research and moral reflection. It is a key text for courses in Relational Communication, Family Communication, Interpersonal Communication, and Communication Ethics.
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Chapter Two: Which Parental Messages about Morality Are Accepted by Emerging Adults?


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Which Parental Messages ABOUT Morality Are Accepted BY Emerging Adults?


Which kinds of moral guidance offered by parents during childhood and adolescence are accepted later in life, when young adults solidify their own moral commitments? This chapter addresses that question by examining acceptability ratings of 470 “memorable moral messages” reported previously in a survey of 303 emerging adults (Waldron et al., 2014). On average, the messages had been received when the participants were 16 years old. The analysis revealed that young adults reported being more accepting of some kinds of parental messages. Those that helped the offspring develop empathy, prioritize moral virtues, and deal with “real world” situations were rated more positively than those which focused on family/cultural obligations, issued commands, or invoked external moral authorities. The results reveal the wide variety of messages that parents use to convey moral content. Parents and moral educators may find the results helpful as they evaluate their current communicative approaches and consider alternatives that might prove useful as children and adolescents transition to young adulthood. ← 35 | 36 →


The period of emerging adulthood, which ranges from the end of adolescence through the mid-to-late twenties, is a time when most people re-evaluate their moral commitments (J. J. Arnett, 2004). Prior to this, during childhood and into early...

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