Genetic and Environmental Influences on Human Development

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Human growth and development is an incredibly complex process, influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. At certain times and for certain developments, genetic influences dominate, whereas at other times, environmental influences are more powerful which emphasizes the fact that genetic and environmental forces are always working together (Sigelman and Rider, 2009).

This paper will examine that part of human growth and development which may observed in the early childhood period (preschool years), in particular that area of growth and development termed “morality”.

The complexity of this area and the concepts involved necessitates a rather expansive look at the perspectives on Moral Development in order to develop contextual understanding of the subject matter.

General description of morality according to Freud, Piaget, Kohlberg and Bandura.

Notwithstanding endless debate re the definition of morality (Gibbs 2003; Turiel 2006), arguably it involves at least the distinguishing of right from wrong and acting upon that distinction. Followed by feeling pride or guilt/shame when the right or wrong action is selected.

Developmental science has mainly been concerned with:

a) The affective component, (guilt, concerns, pride, etc) surrounding actions – the emotional feelings motivating thoughts and actions

b) The cognitive component, (recognising the concepts of right and wrong) driving decisions about behaviour, utilising social cognitive skills – role taking, empathy, etc

c) The behavioural component, (our behaviour in given circumstances).

These three major perspectives on moral development each focus on a different aspect of morality –

a) Moral affect is examined by psychoanalytic theory

b) Moral cognition (reasoning) is studied by cognitive developmental theory.

c) Moral behaviour is studied by social cognitive theory (social learning).

This culminates with an evolutionary perspective viewpoint.

The psychoanalytical theory viewpoint on moral affect examines the emotions linked to concepts of right and wrong ie negative feelings such as anxiety/guilt/shame fear of detection acting as a preventative from wrong actions. – Potentially being disgusted or righteously angered upon observing wrongful acts (Tangney, Stuewig and Mashek 2007) – Self satisfaction or pride upon doing the right thing – gratitude or admiration upon observing a moral act. All these are important parts of morality (Turiel 2006). Tangney et al (2007) refer to the necessity of moral emotions requiring the ability to evaluate one’s own level of achievement (or non achievement) of that individuals standards of behaviour.

Freud’s early psychoanalytical theory (1960) offered the irrational selfish id, the rational ego, and moralistic super ego; classifying infants and toddlers as basically lacking super ego - essentially totally id. He attributed their actions to the selfish id, unless parental intervention added a level of control. Freud likened the superego to the “internal parent.” Although Freud’s main themes are taken seriously, his specifics now lack support. Hoffman (2000) states that children form strong consciences when they have a secure attachment to warm responsive parents. Silverman (2003) has observed that females do not appear to have lesser super egos than males, indeed seem more resistant to temptation. These views have overtaken the specifics offered by Freud.

Kochanska and Aksan (2006): Turiel (2006) and others have shown that an important part of morality is moral emotion; early parental relationships contribute to moral development. The internalization of moral standards must somehow be achieved in order for children to behave morally in the absence of the detection/punishment threat of a figure of authority.

Cognitive development theory, in examining moral reasoning, assumes that moral development depends on role-taking or perspective-taking or other social...
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