Mark Twain once said, "When a child turns 12 you should put him in a barrel, nail the lid down and feed him through a knot hole. When he turns 16, plug the hole!" Anyone who has ever been a teenager, or raised teenagers, knows it's a difficult period of life for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to: whiteheads, raging hormones, an insatiable appetite, and occasionally, 'Teen Wolf'-esque body hair growth. But, according to Harvard's Dr. Richard Weissbourd, the challenges of adolescence are no excuse for parents to abandon their parental responsibilities when it comes to fostering a sense of right and wrong in their children. 

This week on You're the Expert, Dr. Weissbourd talks to us about Adolescent Moral Development, a field that explores the process of identity formation and the internalization of morals and values in children and young adults.  Through extensive interviews, focus groups, and surveys, Dr. Weissbourd has looked into how a sense of right and wrong develops within children. His research suggests that even very young children know right from wrong, but many struggle to manage negative emotions that can cause them to act in immoral ways.  

Dr. Weissbourd also researches how students think about love and romantic relationships. He's trying to push educators and parents to focus on children's development as a whole, rather than narrowly focusing on achievement and happiness. Our panelists loved hearing the way kids explained love to Dr. Weissbourd, particularly one interviewee who said you know you're in love when you feel a "pain in the stomach," not unlike an ulcer.  I think we've all been there.

Listen to the episode, "Adolescent Moral Development," and let us know what you think!

-Lee Stephenson, Production Associate


Further reading:
Dr. Weissbourd's official website for his new book "The Parents We Mean to Be":

Or, check out a letter for Harvard Education entitled "Learning about Love":

Finally, take a look at Dr. Weissbourd's New York Times article, "Teaching Children to Do Good":


AuthorChris Duffy