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



References: Bandura, A. (1991) Social cognitive theory of moral thought and action. In W. M. Kurtines & J. L. Gewirtz (Eds.), Handbook of moral behaviour and development: Vol 1. Theory. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Bandura, A. (2000). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1-26. Bandura, A. (2002). Selective moral disengagement in the exercise of moral agency. Journal of Moral Education, 31, 101-119. Colby, A., Kohlberg, L. (1987). The measurement of moral judgment. Vol. 1: Theoretical foundations and research validation. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Freud, S. (1960). A general introduction to psychoanalysis. New York: Washington Square Press. (Original work published 1935) Fry, D Gibbs, J. C. (2003). Moral development and reality: Beyond the theories of Kohlberg and Hoffman. London, England: Sage Publications Ltd. Hauser, M. D. (2006). Moral ingredients: How we evolved the capacity to do the right thing. In S. C. Levinson & J. Pierre (Eds.), Evolution and culture: A Fryssen Foundation symposium. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Hoffman, M. L. (2000). Empathy and moral development: Implications for caring and justice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Kochanska, G., & Aksan, N. (2006) Children’s conscience and self-regulation. Journal of Personality, 74, 1587-1617. Kohlberg, L. (1963). The development of children’s orientations toward a moral order: 1. Sequence in the development of moral thought. Vita Humana, 6, 11-33. Kohlberg, L. (1981). Essays on moral development: Vol 1. The philosophy of moral development. San Francisco: Harper & Row. Kohlberg, L. (1984) Essays on moral development: Vol. 2. The psychology of moral development. San Francisco: Harper & Row. Krebs, D. (2005). An evolutionary reconceptualization of Kohlberg’s model of moral development. In R. L. Burgess & K. Macdonald (Eds.), Evolutionary perspective on human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Piaget, J. (1965). The moral judgment of the child. New York: Free Press. (Original work published 1932). Sigelman, C. K. & Rider E. A. (2009) Life-span Human Development, (6th Ed), The George Washington University and Elizabethtown College, p123 Silverman, I Tangney, J. P., Stuewig, J., & Mashek, D. J. (2007). Moral emotions and moral behavior. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 345-372. Turiel, E. (2006). The development of morality. In N. Eisenberg (Vol. Ed.), & W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds. in Chief), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3. Social, emotional and personality development (6th ed). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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