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PSYB20H3 (70)

Chapter 12: Moral Development

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Ella Daniel

Chapter 12: Moral Development - Morality has an emotional component –powerful feelings cause us to empathize with another’s distress or to feel guilty when we are the cause of that distress - Morality also has an important cognitive component—children’s developing social understanding enables them to make increasingly profound judgments about actions they believe to be right or wrong - Morality has a vital behavioural component—experiencing morally relevant thoughts and feelings increases the likelihood, but does not guarantee, that people will act in accord with them Morality as Rooted in Human Nature - Morally relevant behaviours and emotions have roots in evolutionary history - Animals aid other members of their species at their own personal risk - Chimpanzees conform to moral-like rules - Empathy, caring and self-sacrifice occur within family in most species, in humans, also with nonrelatives - Traits that undergo altruism undergo natural selection - Areas of the prefrontal cortex involved in emotional responsiveness to the suffering of others and to one’s own misdeeds (functioning of this area improves over first 2 years) - Damaged ventromedial and orbitofrontal disrupts social learning leading to antisocial behaviour - Self-experienced pain and observation of others pain both activate areas in the cerebral cortex - Babies have a built in preference for individuals who aid others Morality as the Adoption of Societal Norms - Moral development regarded as a matter of internalization—adopting societal standards for right actions as one’s own ( both psychoanalytical theory and social learning believe this) Psychoanalytical theory and the role of guilt - Freud—moral development emerges between ages 3 and 6 during the period of the Oedipus and Electra conflicts - Moral development complete by age 5 to 6 (Freud) - Criticism: o View of guilt as a hostile impulse redirected toward the self is no longer accepted –children experience guilt when they harm others and feel personally responsible for the outcome o Freud assumed that fear of punishment and loss of parental love motivate conscience formation—however, children whose parents are hostile tend to violate standards and feel little guilt. Parents warmth and responsiveness predict greater guilt - Inductive discipline o Induction—a type of discipline in which an adult helps the child notice others feelings by pointing out the effects of making clear that the child caused it o Induction effective at age 2, if parents provide explanations that match the child’s capacity to understand while insisting the child listens and complies o Moral identity—endorsement of moral value (such as fairness, kindness, and generosity) as central to their self-concept o More use of induction, the stronger their moral identity o Induction motivates commitment to moral norms because: • Gives children information on how to behave that they can use in the future • Encourages empathy and sympathetic concern (prosocial behaviour) • Encourage children to adopt moral standards because they make sense • Children may form a script for the negative emotional consequences of harming others • Those who view discipline as fair are more likely to listen to, accept, and internalize the parent’s message - The child’s contribution o Children’s characteristics affect the success of parenting techniques o More empathetic children require less power assertion and are more responsive to induction o Temperament is also influential; in anxious, fearful preschoolers, requests, suggestions and explanations are efficient, however, in fearless, impulsive children, parents most form a warm relationship and combine correction of misbehavior with induction - The role of guilt o Guilt is an important motivator of moral action o Inducing empathy-based guilt (expressions of personal responsibility and regret) by explaining that the child’s behaviour is causing someone distress is a means of influencing children without using coercion o This stops harmful actions, repairs damage caused by misdeeds, and encourages engagement in future prosocial behaviour o Contrary to Freud—guilt is not the only force that compels us to act morally and moral development is not complete by the end of early childhood (it is a gradual process beginning in preschool years and extending into adulthood) Social Learning Theory - Moral behaviour acquired thought reinforcement and modeling - Importance of modeling o Operant conditioning—reinforcement for good behaviour with approval, affection, and other rewards (not enough for children to acquire moral responses) o Modeling—observing adults who demonstrate appropriate behaviour o Once children acquire a moral response, reinforcement in the form of praising the act or the child’s character increases its frequency o Warm and responsive models make children more attentive and responsive to examples of prosocial responses o Competent and powerful models are more easily modeled o Models who are consistent between assertions and actual behaviour are more likely to be modeled - Effects of punishment o To foster long-term goals, parents must rely on warmth and reasoning o In response to serious transgressions, parents combine power assertions with reasoning o Frequent punishment promotes only immediate compliance (not lasting changes in behaviour) o Children who are repeatedly criticized, abused, more likely to act unacceptably again o The more the physical abuse, the more likely the child is to develop mental health problems o Corporal punishment—the use of physical force to inflict pain but not injury, frequency and harshness elevated among less educated, economically disadvantaged parents o Heredity contributes to the link between punitive discipline and children’s adjustment , but, environment plays a role too o Early corporal punishment predicts emotional and behavioural problems, link between physical punishment and later child and adolescent aggression - Alternatives to harsh punishment o Time out—involves removing children from the immediate setting until they are ready to act appropriately o Withdrawal of privileges—not allowing them to play outside or watch tv o When parents decide to use punishment, they can increase its effectiveness with: consistency, a warm parent-child relationship, and explanations - Positive relationships, positive parenting o Building a mutually respectful bond with the child, letting the child know ahead of time how to act, and praising mature behaviour allows for firmer conscience development o Parent-child closeness leads children to heed parental demands because the child feels a sense of commitment to the relationship Limitations of “morality as the adoption of societal norms” perspective - Cognitive development theorists believe that neither identification with parents nor teaching, modeling, and reinforcement are the major means though which children become moral - They develop morally through construction—actively attending to and interrelating multiple perspectives on situations in which social conflicts arise and thereby attaining new moral understandings (rather than internalizing existing rules and expectations) - Child is a thinking moral being who wonders about right and wrong and searches for moral truth—make moral evaluations and decisions on the basis of concepts they construct about justice and fairness Morality as Social Understanding Piaget’s theory of moral development - Inspired cognitive development perspective - Questioned 5-13 year olds about their understanding of rules in the game of marbles - Also told stories in which character’s intentions to engage in right or wrong action differed from the consequences of their behaviour, from this Piaget identified to broad stages of moral understanding - Heteronomous morality (5-8 years)—suggests that children in this first stage view rules as handed down by authorities (God, parents, teachers), as having a permanent existence, as unchangeable, and as requiring strict obedience o Two factors limit children’s moral understanding 1. Cognitive immaturity (limited capacity to imagine other perspectives) and realism—the tendency to view mental phenomena, including rules, as fixed external features of reality 2. The power of adults to insist that children comply, which promotes unquestioning respect for rules and those who enforce them - Morality of cooperation (9 to 10 years)—children no longer view rules as fixed but see them as flexible, socially agreed-on principles that can be revised to suit the will of the majority o Cognitive development, gradual release from adult control, and peer interaction lead them to this transition o Through peer disagreements children realize that people’s perspectives on moral action can differ and that intentions, not concrete consequences, should serve as the basis for judging behaviour o Reciprocity begins to be used, in which they express the same concern for others as they do for themselves o Ideal reciprocity—the idea expressed in the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (in older children and adolescents) Evaluation of Piaget’s theory - With age, outer features, such as physical damage or getting punished, give way to subtler considerations, such as the actor’s intentions or the needs and desires of others - Evidence supports that moral understanding is supported by cognitive maturity, gradual release from adult control, and peer interaction - Questioned aspects of theory: - Intentions and moral judgments o Early school-age children able to judge ill-intentioned people as naughtier and deserving more punishment than well-intentioned ones o By age 4, children recognize the difference between truthfulness and lying o By age 7 and 8 (earlier than Piaget suggested) children integrate their judgments of lying and truth telling with prosocial and antisocial intentions o Chinese children more often rate lying favorably when the intention is modesty, to support the group at the expense of the individual o Canadian children more often favour lying to support the individual at expense of the group o Younger children are more likely to focus on salient features and consequences in their judgments, while neglecting and hence failing to integrate other important information (ex. lies are always wrong) o In early school years, children generally interpret statements of intention in a rigid, heteronomous fashion—once you say you’re going to do something, you are obligated to regardless of circumstances which make it difficult - Reasoning about authority o Children do not regard adults with the unquestioning respect Piaget assumed o Even preschoolers judge hitting and stealing as wrong regardless of opinions of authorities o By age 4, children have differentiated notions about the legitimacy of authority figures (refine during school years) o With respect to non-moral concerns, children base the legitimacy of authority on a person’s knowledge and based on ones intention to protect other’s rights, not on social position o Preschool and young elementary school children tend to place greater weight than older children on power, status, and consequences for disobedience - Stage-wise progression o Piaget regarded the two moralities as fluid, overlapping phases rather than tightly knot stages o Children display both heteronomous and cooperative moral reasoning o Moral development viewed as more of an extended process than Piaget believed Kohlberg’s extension of Piaget’s theory - Presented people with hypothetical moral dilemmas and asked what the main actor should do and why - The clinical interview—“Moral Judgment Interview” ; individuals resolve dilemmas that present conflicts between two moral values and justify their decisions, ex. “Heinz dilemma”—man’s wife with cancer, and drug o It is the way an individual reasons about the dilemma, not the content of the response that determines moral judgment maturity o Only at the highest two stages do moral reasoning and content come together in an ethical system - A questionnaire approach—“Sociomoral Reflection Measure-Short Form”—short-answer questionnaire asking individuals to evaluate the importance of moral values and to reason about them - Kohlberg’s stages of moral understanding o Moral stages are universal and invariant o Viewed each new stage as building on reasoning of the preceding stage o Saw each stage as an organized whole o Moral understanding promoted by: (1) disequilibrium, or actively grappling with moral issues and noticing weaknesses in one’s current thinking , (2) gains in perspective taking, which permit individuals to resolve moral conflicts in increasingly complex and effective ways - The pre-conventional level—morality is externally controlled. Children accept the rules of authority figures and judge actions by their consequences. Behaviour that results in punishment are viewed as bad, those that lead to rewards as good. o Stage 1: the punishment and obedience orientation—difficult to consider two points of view in a moral dilemma and overlook people’s intentions o Stage 2: the instrumental purpose orientation—children realize people can have different perspectives in a moral dilemma—view right action as flowing from self- interest and understand reciprocity as equal exchange of favors - The conventional level—individuals continue to regard conformity to social rules as important, but not for reasons of self-interest. Rather, they believe that actively maintaining the current social system ensures positive human relationships and societal order o Stage 3: the “good boy-good girl” orientation, or the morality of interpersonal cooperation—desire to obey rules because they promote social harmony first appears in the context of close personal ties (understands ideal reciprocity) o Stage 4: the social-order-maintaining orientation—individual takes into account a larger perspective, that of societal laws; rules enforced for all members of society and should be obeyed - The postconventional or principled level—individuals at this stage move beyond unquestioning support for the laws and rules of their own society. They define morality in terms of abstract principles and values that apply to all situations and societies o Stage 5: the social-contract orientation—laws and rules are flexible instruments for furthering human purposes; free and willing participation in the system because it brings about more good for people than if it did not exist o Stage 6: the universal ethical principle orientation—right action is defined by self- chosen ethical principles of conscience that are valid for all humanity, regardless of law and social agreement Research on Kohlberg’s stages - Development of moral reasoning is slow and gradual - Few people move beyond stage 4 - Are Kohlberg’s stages organized wholes? o If it was organized whole then individuals should use the same level of moral reasoning across many tasks and situations, however, sometimes situations require practical considerations and mix cognition with intense emotion o Stages are therefore loosely organized and overlapping—people draw on a range of moral responses that vary with context - Cognitive influences on moral reasoning o Moral maturity is positively correlated with IQ, performance on Piagetian cognitive tasks, and perspective-taking skill o Cognitive and perspective-taking attainments are not sufficient to ensure moral advances. Which also require reorganization of thought unique to the moral domain Are there sex differences in moral reasoning? - Kohlberg’s theory, originally formulated on the basis of interviews with males, does not adequately represent the morality of girls and women
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