Broderick (2015) provides an overview of Perry’s Theory of Intellectual and Ethical Development. The first stage of Intellectual/Ethical development for young adults is dualism, a type of thinking that creates strict boundaries between right and wrong, with the moral compass being provided by parents and other authority figures. Personally, I believe this stage is best illustrated by myself as a teenager. My parents provided a set of rules, and those were the rules I followed, regardless of their presence.
The next stage is the multiplicity stage. This stage is reached when a young adult begins to be confronted by points of view that rival the perspectives and “truths” they have had. I remember feeling disoriented and confused while listening to a guest instructor speak about theories of evolution and their legitimacy.
Skipping over a few stages, young adults eventually move into negotiating relativism, which is a place of determining what will be believed and what will not. It de-legitimizes some ideas, and legitimizes others, giving the young adult the space to create a moral compass that matches their beliefs. I believe this stage, for me, was reached in college when I decided what I would believe about people who identify as LGBTQ and the manner in which these individuals should be treated.
Marker events that can assist young adults as they move through these stages of thinking include higher education and exposure to new ideas through work and volunteer experiences.
Broderick, The Life Span (2015)