Moral Development and Aggression in Children

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The Moral Development and Aggression in Children

The moral development of a child is closely related to the aggression that they will display. Researchers have found that there are gender differences in relations to social aggression and physical aggression. Studies have shown that male children display high levels of aggression and that female children reach their moral maturity sooner. Though there are several methods of treating aggression in children, research has shown that there is a need for new and innovative studies of how to treat children with aggression.

The Moral Development and Aggression in Children
During the preschool years children enter the stage of moral development and aggression. It is during these years that children begin to shape and form their ideas about what is right and wrong. They also begin to be able to control and express their aggression toward objects and people. This is a pivotal time in a child’s life because they require proper parenting so that they can develop positive morals and proper levels of aggression. Without this children will be left to themselves to know the difference between right and wrong.

According to Feldman (2008), “Moral development refers to changes in people’s sense of justice and of what is right and wrong, and in their behavior related to moral issues”(pg. 274). This represents why moral development is critical in the life of a child because without it they will have no moral compass to live by. Throughout the years many psychologists have studied the moral development of children. One of the first psychologists to study moral development was Piaget (Feldman, 2008). He theorized that there were three forms of moral development. The first stage was known as heteronomous morality stage, which means that rules unchangeable. The second stage was knows as incipient cooperation stage, which means rules are more formal but still unchangeable. The final stage is known as the autonomous cooperation stage, which means children become aware that rules can be changed (Feldman, 2008). Though Piaget’s theory was very advanced for his time present day researchers have found that his theory underestimated the abilities of children. Researchers have found that at the age of three children can understand and make moral judgments (Feldman, 2008).

Social learning is another way to approach morality. The theory of social learning in regards to morality is that a child observes someone else, who is known as a model, and learns from this individual indirectly (Feldman, 2008). Children only model those who receive praise or encouragement for what they do so if they are in an environment where following the rules and listening to authority figures is encouraged them they will emulate this behavior. However, if a child is in an environment where breaking the law and acting out against authority figures is encouraged they too will follow this example. This is why it is imperative that a child be raised in a healthy positive environment where they are praised for doing right and punished for doing wrong.

As a child develops morality they will use this as a basis for what they decide is right and wrong. This morality is how they will come to view aggression and violence. The early childhood years are when children begin to demonstrate their levels of aggression as well as violence. Aggression and violence are both very common during the preschool years. Many children display aggression but it is not always displayed in a violent way. There are two forms of aggression which are instrumental aggression and relational aggression. Feldman defines instrumental aggression as “aggression motivated by the desire to obtain a concrete goal” and relational aggression as “nonphysical aggression that is intended to hurt another person’s psychological well-being” (Feldman, 2008, pg. 276). An example of instrumental aggression would be a child who sees...
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