Moral Development

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Moral Development|
Morality as Rooted in Human NatureDescribe and evaluate the biological perspective on morality. * The biological perspective on moral development assumes that morality is grounded in the genetic heritage of our species, perhaps through prewired emotional reactions. Humans share many morally relevant behaviours with other species, and the ventromedial area of the frontal region of the cerebral cortex is vital for emotional responsiveness to others’ suffering. Nevertheless, human morality cannot be fully explained in this way, since morally relevant emotions require strong caregiving supports and cognitive attainments for their mature expression.Morality as the Adoption of Societal NormsDescribe and evaluate the psychoanalytic perspective on moral development. * Both psychoanalytic and social learning theories regard moral development as a matter of internalization: the adoption of societal standards for right action as one’s own. Internalization is not just a straightforward process of taking over externally imposedprescriptions. Instead, it is the combined result of factors within the child and the rearing environment. * According to Freud, morality emerges with the resolution of the Oedipus and Electra conflicts during the preschool years. Fear of punishment and loss of parental love lead children to form a superego through identification with the same-sex parent and to redirect hostile impulses toward the self in the form of guilt. * Although guilt is an important motivator of moral action, Freud’s interpretation of it is no longer widely accepted. In contrast to Freudian predictions, power assertion and love withdrawal do not foster conscience development. Instead, induction is far more effective and seems to cultivate children’s active commitment to moral norms. Recent psychoanalytic ideas place greater emphasis on a positive parent-child relationship and earlier beginnings of morality. However, they retain continuity with Freud’s theory in regarding emotion as the basis for moral development.Describe and evaluate the social learning perspective on moral development, including the importance of modelling, the effects of punishment, and alternatives to harsh discipline. * Social learning theory views moral behaviour as acquired in the same way as other responses: through modelling and reinforcement. Effective models are warm and powerful and display consistency between what they say and what they do. By middle childhood, children have internalized many prosocial and other rules for good conduct. * Harsh punishment does not promote moral internalization and socially desirable behaviour. Instead, it provides children with aggressive models, leads them to avoid the punishing adult, and can spiral into serious abuse. Alternatives, such as time out and withdrawal of privileges, can reduce these undesirable side effects, as long as parents apply them consistently, maintain a warm relationship with the child, and offer explanations that fit the transgression. * The most effective forms of discipline encourage good conduct. Parents who build a positive relationship with the child have children who want to adopt parental standards because they feel a sense of commitment to the relationship.Morality as Social UnderstandingDescribe Piaget’s theory of moral development, and evaluate its accuracy. * Piaget’s cognitive-developmental perspective assumes that morality develops through construction-actively thinking about multiple aspects of situations in which social conflicts arise and deriving new moral understandings. * Piaget’s work was the original inspiration for the cognitive-developmental perspective. He identified two stages of moral understanding: heteronomous morality, in which children view moral rules in terms of realism and as fixed dictates of authority figures; and autonomous morality, in which...
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