4. Dianna, a mother of 3 children, comes to you with concerns about the moral development of her children. Her first child, Jamie, male age 15, is “so self-centered” and seems not to be too concerned about “doing what is right”. Mom is concerned that Jamie will never learn to do good in the world, and she strongly feels like it is too late to teach him. “How do you teach someone to do the right thing at this point?” she asks prophetically. In comparing Jamie to her other two children, Dianna, reports that her youngest daughter, Erica, age 8, seems to care so much about other people. She is always making cards, demonstrating empathy, and trying to help others. Dianna’s middle child, Aaron, male age 11, seems very quiet and withdrawn. In hearing these stories, how would you help Dianna understand the moral development of children and adolescents? How would you help Dianna understand her role in this process? How can you apply the theories of moral development in this case? Consider recent research and frame your answer in the language of the course.

Kohlberg's six stages of moral development (in three levels)
Level 1: Preconventional morality. Morality is defined by external rewards and punishments, and only on point of view is taken into account
  • Stage 1: Punishment Orientation. If those in charge punish an action, that means it is morally wrong. If it isn't punished, it isn't wrong.
  • Stage 2: Naive Hedonism. If an action leads to rewards, it is right. You are nice to people who may be nice to you.
Level 2: Conventional Morality. Morality is defined by the standards of others, such as parents or society, which one follows to gain approval. Other people's points of view become very important
  • Stage 3: "Good Boy/Good Girl" Orientation. The morally right thing to do is to live up to the legitimate role expectations of significant others.
  • Stage 4: Social Order Orientation. Morality is defined by ruled put forward by legitimate authorities and aimed at preserving social order.
Level 3: Postconventional Morality. What is right is based on the individual's internalization of universal principles of ethics and justice.
  • Stage 5: Social Contract Orientation. Systems of laws and rules are morally legitimate to the extent they preserve fundamental rights and values.
  • Stage 6: Universal Ethical Principles. Moral right is based on universally applicable moral principles that transcend any rules that may be in conflict with them.
McMahan, I. (2009). Adolscence. New York New York: Pearson.

Study of parenting styles as predictors of prosocial behaviors in Spain, longitudinal study over 3 years. Involved 372 boys and 358 girls, and the study measured both father's and mother's warmth, strict control, sympathy, and their effects on prosocial reasoning. This could provide some insight for Dianna.

Parenting styles
1. Warmth - this kind of style generally has a positive effect, associated with responsiveness, and a strong parent-child relationship.
2. Control - the degree in which children are disciplined, behavioral rules, and expectations imposed on children.

1. Warmth - develop emotional sensitivity, awareness of understanding of another's perspective, and prosocial behaviors.
2. Control - depends upon the level of discipline and control but can lead to more self-focused thoughts and actions, aggressive or anti-social behaviors.

1. Maternal warmth lead to increase in prosocial behaviors, including moral reasoning. Father warmth also had effect but not as much as mother's.
2. Strict control was generally found to have a negative impact on prosocial behaviors and moral development.
3. Overall finding, warmth is more favorable to developing prosocial behavior rather than strict control.

We have discussed this in class, but since the study supports this I thought I would include it.

Carlo, G., Mestre, M., Samper, P., Tur, A., & Armenta, B. E. (2011). The longitudinal relations among dimensions of parenting styles, sympathy, prosocial moral reasoning, and prosocial behaviors. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 35(2), 116-124.

From Textbook: (p.381-384)

Different ways of approaching moral questions according to Carol Gilligan
~Justice orientation: approaching moral questions with the primary goal of finding fair, objective resolutions to conflicts. (Boys fall into this more often because they are raised to be assertive and independent.
~Care orientation: approaching moral questions with the primary goal of preserving positive relationships among people. (Girls fall into this more often because they are raised to be expressive, kind, and responsive to others.

Empathy: the capacity to experience similar feelings to those someone else is experiencing.
~evidence that feelings of empathy contribute to moral and prosocial behavior
~Adolescents have a more generalized ability to feel empathy than children
~If empathy leads to sympathy, a person is likely to attempt to do something about the other person's distress. However, if it doesn't lead to sympathy, a person may try to reduce his own distress by denial or turning away.

Parenting styles:
Induction: explain the effects of an action, explaining how if affected others and its connection to moral values
Power assertion: use their dominant position to control child's actions through physical punishment
Love withdrawal: threaten the child with a loss of affection or approval

Outside Research:

~Volling, B., Mahoney, A., & Rauer, A. (2009). Sanctification of Parenting, Moral Socialization, and Young Children's Conscience Development. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 1(1), 53-68.

This study supports the effectiveness of the use of inductive discipline to promote children's empathy and moral development.
The development of conscience is described as including guilt/remorse following transgression, even in the absence of "getting caught," as well as feeling concern for a perceived distressed other. It also includes behavioral control to resist impulses and temptation.

--Rossano, Matt J. (2008). "The moral faculty: does religion promote 'moral expertise'?" The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 18, 169-194.
According to this article, religion can provide a setting for certain practices that are known to enhance/fortify self-control, wisdom, social intelligence, and empathy-- characteristics thought to be related to morality. Such practices, common in religious settings, include behavioral obligations and proscriptions, motivational concepts, and meditation (174).

~Cohn, L. (1991). Sex Differences in the Course of Personality Development: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 109(2), 252-266.

This study cites past research by Hoffman (p.254) that says girls are more likely to accompany an empathic feeling with a response to help. This study found that sex differences arose by late childhood and declined by late adolescence but girls display a greater maturity of thought before boys.

Outside research from:
Narvaez, Darcia, & Jenny L Vaydich. (Sept 2008). Moral development and behavior under the spotlight of the neurobiological sciences. Journal of Moral Education, 37(3), 289-312.
--"Morality is as firmly grounded in neurobiology as anything else we do or are" (de Woal, 1996, 217).
--Some caregiving and educational activities promote later moral functioning through positive effects on brain functioning and later neural functioning (290).
--20-year longitudinal study demonstrates that responsive parenting influences development of empathy circuits in the brain (Karen, 1994).
--Responsive parenting fosters securely attached children who show earlier conscience development (Kochanska, 2002).
--Despite critical development periods, brain structures and functions are malleable, making change possible throughout life (Schwartz & Begley, 2003). Experiences and exposures throughout life can influence perception and sensitivity; all brain functions improve with practice. Prefrontal cortex may not be fully formed until close to 30 years of age (Luna et al, 2001).

gender differences and moral development

This article discusses the idea of a link between caring, helping, and volunteering to religion, spirituality, and importance of beliefs. Affective and cognitive aspect of empathy are also discussed and how this is linked to sensitivity to both self and others.

Markstrom, C.A., Huey, E., Stiles, B.M., Krause, A.L. (2010). Frameworks of caring and helping in adolescence: Are empathy, religiosity, and spirituality related constructs? Youth & Society, 42(1), 59-80.

This article discusses the role of empathy and sympathy in prosocial behavior and moral conduct. The degree to which adolescents' embrace moral values and incorporate this into their self-concept influences their moral behavior. Variable discussed include, sympathy, empathic anger, guilt and shame, internalization, prosocial moral reasoning, prosocial tendencies (ex. altruism), bullying, parental discipline, and negative reactivity.

"this study supports the idea that conscience in adolescence is complex, involving a multitude of interrelated skills, and that to truly understand conscience development in adolescence, a rich variety of measures is needed. In addition, this study suggest that the dimensions of conscience that have been found in early childhood also seem to be found in adolescence" (Laible, Eye, & Carlo, 2008, p. 885).

Laible, D., Eye, J., & Carlo, G. (2008). Dimensions of conscience in mid-adolescence: Links with social behavior, parenting, and temperament. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37, 875-887.

Some notes from article:
  • childhood -- internalization of values involves compliance with parental demands
  • adolescence -- degree to which teens accept moral values and integrate them into their own self-concept (the degree to which they integrate moral values into self-concept predicts prosocial behavior)
  • importance of persistent parenting, consistent consequences: fosters values internalization and moral reasoning (the mother shouldn't give up, even though it feels too late!)

This study relates adolescence values with their social experiences. Particularly, warm relationships are linked to intrinsic values and negative relationships related to extrinsic values. This study goes beyond the normally studied parent-child relationship and examines the sibling relationship in regards to value development. The unexpected results of the survey were “associations with values were found mainly for negative aspects of sibling interaction, and the sibling relationship almost exclusively explained similarity in sibling values.”

Kretschmer, T., & Pike, A. (2010). Associations between adolescent siblings' relationship quality and similarity and differences in values. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(4), 411-418. doi:10.1037/a0020060

From Textbook (p. 377-388)

Piaget concluded that there were two distinct phases of moral development:
    • heteronomous morality (moral realism)- Age 4-7: Rules are set by authority figures and fixed in stone. Following the rules is always the right thing to do and breaking them is bad immanent justice is present during this stage- someone breaks a rule, punishment follows
    • transition stage Age 7-10
    • autonomous morality (moral relativism)- Age 10 and up: Rules can be changed if people agree and broken if there is a good reason.
Piaget stressed the importance of peer interaction to promote more autonomous moral thinking. He claims that this is where role-taking is learned. Role-taking is the ability to look at situations from another person's point of view.

psychosocial moratorium -- time period in which adolescents have some freedom to explore impulses, talents, interest, beliefs without fear of drastic consequences (maybe Jamie is trying on different behaviors and attitudes from those which he was taught as a child -- it doesn't mean these will be his permanent attitudes and lifestyles!) (p. 368)

Outside research
Among the most important aspects of the relationship between parents and children that contribute to children's moral development are:
  • relational quality
  • parental discipline
  • proactive strategies
  • conversational dialogue

Laible, D.J., & Thompson, R.A. (2007). Early socialization: A relationship perspective. Handbook of socialization. New York: Guilford.

The Self-Importance of Moral Identity.pdf

This study concluded that moral identity will predict the frequency with which people engage in activities that benefit others. Furthermore, it is expected that their psychological responses to having participated in these activities will be influenced by the self-importance of their moral identity.

Moral identity is defined in this article as a self-conception organized around a set of moral traits.

Acquino, K., & Reed II, A. (2002). The self-importance of moral identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 83(6), 1423-1440.

Adolescence is a time of hypothetico-deductive reasoning (McMahan, 2009) - a way of reasoning in which a person makes a logical prediction based on some supposition, and then checks the prediction against reality.

Hypothetical alternatives (McMahan, 2009) - children tend to accept things as they are, but adolescents can question the present. They can measure it against abstract concepts such as fairness, justice, and human rights, and see where it falls short. They can imagine ways in which the world could be different and better.

Adolescent egocentrism (McMahan - 2009) - the process of assuming that other people's points of view are the same as one's own

Imaginary audience (McMahan, 2009) - an aspect of adolescent egocentrism that involves believing that one is the focus of other's attention and involvement

Personal fable (McMahan, 2009) - believing that one's experiences are unique and that one is exempt from the usual consequences of one's actions

Looking glass self(McMaha, 2009): Adolescence is a time of questioning, testing and evaluating and building one's own values through their actions and the responses they receive through the other.

Adolescents usually test and build their values in a more stable manner through emerging adulthood (Santrock, 2008)

Parenting styles and adolescence influences: (McMahan, 2009)

Authoritative : Discipline and warmth - more successful in helping adolescents stay on the right track and still receive the acceptance that they need

Authoritarian : Discipline, but no warmth - less successful as there is no warmth, but only control

Indulgent : No discipline but warmth - can spoil the adolescent and can affect discipline

Indifferent : No discipline or warmth - the adolescent's discipline or values might not be developed and frustration might accompany

Behavioral vs Psychological control (McMahan, 2009)

Behavioral control : the rules and limits parents place on their child's activities (generall positive)

Psychological control : trying to contol children by acting on their thoughts and feelings (negative)

Parent teen conflict : (McMahan, 2009)

- Detachment from parents is a natural phase of adolescence
- young adolescents disagree more with their mothers than with their fathers
- parents do not always define what lies behind their actions
- long after the teen has forgotten about some heated exchange, parents are still brooding over it
- Adolescents look to peers for building their values

There are individual differences in temperament, attachment styles and gender differences too. (Santrock, 2008) and we might never know how Erica and Aaron will behave in adolescence as they are in a different stage of development.

Moral development in adolescents is influenced by biological, family and peer related factors:


Notes from this article:
  • biological basis
    • “growing evidence on the biological basis of morally relevant tendencies and behaviors like altruism and aggression”
    • puberty signals reemergence of biologically based processes that might impact moral development during adolescence –
      • physiological maturation -- enhance emotional sensitivity and intimacy, care-based emotions, social behaviors
      • hormonal changes – linked to irritability and aggressiveness
  • even though there is a neurobiological basis, behavior can still by shaped by parenting styles
  • adolescent development: improvement in ability to infer perspectives of others, to understand self, to solve social problems (so maybe Jamie's thoughts and behaviors are less visible to his mother than his sister's; plus he is spending more time with peers)
  • maintain a good relationship with him and expose him to community service (both factors which contribute to strong moral development)
  • moral character can be transformed between childhood and adulthood
  • remember Gandhi -- he lied to his parents, broke moral and religious taboos, but eventually found his way!

From Psych Textbooks

Kohlberg believe that movement occurs one stage at a time and by meaningful interaction with people who are one to two levels higher on his Stages of Moral Development.

Slavin, R. (2003). Educational Psychology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Kohlberg found that as teen got older they looked at dilemnas differently; they consider principal as well as social consequences as they mature.
There is a strong relationship between moral development and empathy.

Schickedanz, J., Schickedanz, D., Forsyth, P., Forsyth, G. (2001). Understanding Children and Adolescent. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development (McMahan, p.34)
Stage/Psychosocioal Crisis
Imporant Events or Influences
industry v. inferiority
Mastery of academic and social skills leads to self-assurance, but failure creates feelings of inferiority
identity v. role confusion
Adolscents must grapple with and solve issues of personal, social and occupational identity.
Otherwise they remain confused about their looming adult roles.
"This American Life: Unconditional Love," a radio archive included in our course content D2L, discusses the case of Romanian orphan Daniel Solomon, who lived in a crib with little caregiver interaction until he was adopted at age 7. His mother describes his attachment disorder, and Daniel's resulting anger, lack of child-to-parent bonding, and dangerous behavior toward her. When another young child with attachment disorder committed homicide, she devoted herself fulltime to their "rebonding," recreating conditions of infancy so that Daniel could feel the sense of being wholly dependent on someone who could indeed be trusted to meet his every need. Daniel grew to experience this, his anger receded, and he lost the impulse to hurt or cause pain to others.(acquired empathy, necessary to morality).

Also from content listed in our D2L, I found good news for Dianna--and all of us! According to "PBS NOVA: Examining Epigenetics and Agouti Mice," epigenomes account for differences between identical twins by modifying expressions of genes in response to our experiences and environments. These epigenetic changes accumulate as we age, especially in response to lifestyle choices. Although epigenomes are most likely to influence genetic expression during adolescence and other critical periods telling cells how to develop, this is possible to occur at any time. Hence, it seems as we interact with all facets of our ecological systems, we continue to grow,change, develop, and evolve. It would seem, then, that whether or not morality can be taught, morality, like most other aspects of psychology, I assume, can certainly continue to develop at any time.

Pratt, M. W., Hunsberger, B., Pancer, S., & Alisat, S. (2003). A Longitudinal Analysis of Personal Values Socialization: Correlates of a Moral Self- Ideal in Late Adolescence. Social Development, 12(4), 563-585. doi:10.1111/1467-9507.00249

Key notes from article:

community involvement fostered moral value endorsement for self (action of helping led to stronger moral value scores but not necessarily the converse ... strong moral values didn't necessarily lead to moral action)
  • implication for mother -- get kids, especially older ones, involved in community service (behavior/action will shape values)
  • at time of community activity, adolescents did not rate close agreement with parents regarding importance of moral values but they DID rate them closer two years later
  • authoritative parenting style = greater agreement on values between parents and self (both moral and nonmoral values)
  • this study found that strictness (as a particular element of authoritative parenting) was associated with more emphasis on moral values FOR BOYS (didn't show an effect on girls -- why? perhaps because of gender differences in moral development - girls develop empathy, etc. earlier on?)
  • lower strictness linked to less incorporation of moral values and more antisocial behavior
  • more monitoring of peers and activities shows concern for social responsibility
  • parents viewed by children as emphasizing moral values more strongly for sons than for daughters in late adolescence (girls already acquired them?)

moral identity- the extent to which someone believes that being moral and acting moral is central and essential to their sense of self
"...those who show high levels of commitment to moral causes 'are more likely than others to construct their self-concept and identity around these moral concerns'" (McMahan, 2009, p. 385).

Erikson's Theories for Forging an Identity (p. 368, 369)
  • identity crisis- clash between the need to explore what is unique about oneself and the wish to become someone who will be respected
  • Children unconsciously identify with parents' beliefs, values, personalities, and the way their parents view them
  • Adolescents start to question what they have taken for granted- puts a strain on relationships
  • psychosocial moratorium- frees teens from heavy responsibilities in order to explore- experimentation followed by choice, commitment, and consolidation on decisions
  • If passed through and achieved a coherent sense of identity, general sense of well-being is gained
  • Identity foreclosure possible- take the identity assigned to them from parents and community if not given freedom to explore, could be psychologically paralyzed, or negative identity (acting in ways to gain disapproval

Marcia's research on Erikson's Theory (p. 369, 370)
  • Categories of Identity Status
  • Identity diffusion- no commitment and no exploration
  • Identity foreclosure- commitment and no exploration
  • Moratorium- no commitment and some exploration
  • Identity achievement- commitment and exploration
  • Those whose parents took a more authoritative approach have an informal style and an achieved identity status

These researchers wanted to investigate the extent to which variable such as family cohesion, adaptability and communication moderate the parent-adolescent moral thought relationship. The findings support the view that parents play an influential role in their children's moral thinking. The findings of this study show that families that are cohesive, adaptable and communicative provide the appropriate family conditions to promote the importance of morality.

White, F.A. & Matawie, K.M. (2004). Parental morality and family processes as predictors of adolescent morality. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 13(2), 219-233.
This study investigates the acceptance and perception of maternal values in adolescence and the relation to prosocial values and behaviors. They found that adolescents accurate perception and acceptance of maternal values directly affects their own personal, prosocial values. Higher levels of accurate perception and acceptance leads to higher prosocial personal values in adolescents. The converse is also true. Adolescents' personal values are related to their prosocial behaviors, but not antisocial behaviors. Accurate perception and acceptance of maternal values was negatively related to antisocial behavior.

Padilla-Walker, L.M. (2007). Characteristics of mother-child interactions related to adolescents' positive values and behaviors. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 675-686.