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Moral Development.docx

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PSYC 302

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Moral Development Moral Judgment • Core Concepts: 1. The reasoning behind a behavior is critical for determining whether a given behavior is moral or immoral 2. Changes in moral reasoning form the basis of moral development Contributors to Current Understanding • Jean Piaget • Lawrence Kohlberg • Both took a cognitive developmental approach to studying the development of morality A. Piaget’s Theory of Moral Judgment • Children’s moral reasoning changes from a rigid acceptance of the dictates and rules of authorities to an appreciation that moral rules are a product of social interaction and hence are modifiable o Piaget’s method initially involved observing children’s games. o He also conducted open-ended interviews with children in which they were presented with stories about children and asked to make judgments as to which child was naughtier Morality of Constraint • Characterizes the moral reasoning of children who have not yet reached the cognitive stage of concrete operations. • See rules and duties as unchangeable “givens” established by an adult • Believe that what determines whether an action is good or bad is the consequence of the action, not the motive behind it Evaluation of Piaget’s Theory • Although Piaget’s general view of moral development has been supported by empirical research, some aspects have not held up well to scrutiny. o For example, young children can sometimes consider intentions and disregard adults’views when judging the morality of some actions, such as hurting others B. Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Judgment • Strongly influenced by Piaget • Assessed moral judgment by presenting children with hypothetical moral dilemmas and then questioning them about the issues involved in their moral judgments 1. Kohlberg’s Stages • Proposed three levels of moral judgment: o Pre-conventional: Moral reasoning is self-centered, focusing on getting rewards and avoiding punishment o Conventional: Moral reasoning is centered on social relationships o Post-conventional: Moral reasoning is involved with ideals, focusing on moral principles • Each level involves two stages of moral judgment Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Judgment • Argued that people all over the world go though these stages in the same order, although they differ with regard to the final stage they attain • Also contended that levels of cognitive development, especially individuals’ skills in perspective taking, determined their progress through the stages 2. Critique of Kohlberg’s Theory • Criticized as reflecting a biased, intellectualized Western conception of morality that is not applicable to non-Western cultures • The view that moral reasoning development is discontinuous has also been criticized. C. Prosocial Moral Judgment • Voluntary behavior intended to benefit another, such as helping, sharing, and providing comfort • To study the development of prosocial moral development, Eisenberg presented children with stories in which the characters must choose between helping someone and meeting their own needs o Identified five stages of prosocial moral reasoning similar to Kohlberg’s stages Eisenberg’s Stages of Prosocial Behavior • This pattern of changes has been found in a variety of Western countries. o Although children from different cultures do vary somewhat in their Prosocial moral reasoning, reflecting the values of the culture • Children using higher-level prosocial moral reasoning tend to be more sympathetic and prosocial in their behavior than children who use lower-level prosocial moral judgment. D. Prosocial Behavior • The origins of altruistic prosocial behavior are rooted in the capacity to feel empathy and sympathy o Infants respond to others’distress, but may not differentiate between others’emotional reactions and their own o At about age 2, children start to more clearly differentiate between another’s emotional distress and their own, although their responses may still be egocentric o In the 2nd and 3rd years of life, the frequency and variety of young children’s prosocial behaviors increase, although they do not regularly act in prosocial ways o Children’s prosocial behaviors increase from the preschool years to adolescence. Individual Differences in Prosocial Behavior • Genetic factors seem to contribute modestly to individual differences in the propensity to engage in prosocial behaviors, as evidenced by the greater similarity in these behaviors between identical twins than fraternal twins o Genetic effects on prosocial behavior may arise indirectly from genetically influenced differences in temperament E. Antisocial Behavior - Development ofAggression • Aggressive behavior emerges at around 18 months and increases until about age 2, when it decreases in frequency. o However, with the growth of language skills, verbal aggression increases Consistency ofAggressive and Antisocial Behavior • Children who are aggressive and prone to conduct problems in middle childhood tend to be aggressive and delinquent in adolescence o Adolescents most at risk for serious behavior problems are those who, as elementary school children, engaged in both aggression and antisocial behavior • Many children who are aggressive from early in life have neurological deficits that underlie such problems as difficulty in paying attention and hyperactivity o Early-onset conduct problems are also associated with a range of family risk factors. Characteristics of Antisocial Children andAdolescents • Children who develop problems with aggression and antisocial behavior tend to exhibit a difficult temperament from a very early age • The combination of impulsivity, problems with attention, and callousness in childhood is especially likely to predict antisocial behavior and run-ins with the police in adolescence. Interventions • Fast Track:An intervention designed to prevent antisocial behavior and violence o Initially implemented with 400 first-grade classes from low-income families in four U.S. cities • Fast Track consists of two major parts: 1. All children in intervention classes were trained with a special curriculum to promote prosocial behavior and to increase emotional self-regulation. 2. Children with the most serious problem behaviors received a more intensive intervention involving special meetings, social skills training, and academic tutoring. (Their parents participated in group sessions and received training in parenting skills.) • The program has been successful:At the end of third grade, 37% of the children in the intervention group, compared to 27% in the control group, were free of problems. Children’s Use of
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