One of the most perplexing problems confronting parents and pastors is teen-age sexuality, and in some cases, promiscuity and pregnancy. In the following interview with CHRISTIANITYTODAY, Donald Joy, professor of human development at the Center for the Study of Children, Conscience, and the Family at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, answers questions and gives practical counsel.

Dr. Koteskey mentions you in his opening paragraph. Is there a dialogue going on between the two of you on adolescence?

Yes, we have lunch together once a week. Ron saw my definition of adolescence. In it I compared Stone Age, agrarian, industrial, and technological cultures, and pointed out that in some societies there is no “adolescence phenomenon”—no lapse of time between sexual maturity and rites of passage into adult status, jobs, independence, and marriage. This triggered Ron’s curiosity.

Are you comfortable with his analysis and his recommendations?

I think they are very helpful. But I am more optimistic than he is. Looking at both biological and cognitive development, I conclude that God has made us in such a way that, as moral demands of a given society become more intensive, its adolescents are capable of an unbelievably early moral sensitivity. Then, by the age of 25 or so, they can make a commitment to an advanced ethical system; they can develop moral maturity. Such sensitivity and wisdom have traditionally been reserved for the aged.

Are you saying that children’s brains, as well as their sexual development, are actually different from past generations?

Research isn’t completed, but the best clues we have suggest exactly that. Piaget, looking at only “moral reasoning,” found a shift from objective responsibility (how much damage ...

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