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This article’s tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. See Wikipedia’s guide to writing better articles for suggestions. This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay that states a Wikipedia editor’s personal feelings about a topic. Moral Development focuses on the emergence, change, and understanding of morality from infancy through adulthood. Morality develops across a lifetime and is impacted by an individuals experience’s and their behaviour when faced with moral issues through different periods physical and cognitive development. Notions of morality development have been developed over centuries, the earliest came from philosopher like Confucius, Aristotle, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who all took a more humanist perspective and focused on the development of the conscience and sense of virtue.
Freud: Morality and the Superego: The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, proposed the existence of a tension between the needs of society and the individual. Skinner’s Behavioural Theory: A proponent of behaviorism, B. Skinner similarly focused on socialization as the primary force behind moral development. Kohlberg: Moral Reasoning: Lawrence Kohlberg was inspired by the works of Jean Piaget and John Dewey. For the past 20 years, researchers have expanded the field of moral development, applying moral judgment, reasoning, and emotion attribution to topics such as prejudice, aggression, theory of mind, emotions, empathy, peer relationships, and parent-child interactions. Melanie Killen and Judith Smetana, provides a wide range of information about these topics covered in moral development today.
A hallmark of moral understanding is intentionality which can be defined as an attribution of the target’s intentions towards another. Moral questions tend to be emotionally charged issues which evoke strong affective responses. Consequently, emotions likely play an important role in moral development. However, there is currently little consensus among theorists on how emotions influence moral development. Psychoanalytic theory, founded by Freud, emphasizes the role of guilt in repressing primal drives.
The relation between moral action and moral emotions has been extensively researched. While emotions serve as information for children in their interpretations about moral consequences of acts, the role of emotions in children’s moral judgments has only recently been investigated. Research from the social domain theory perspective focuses on how children actively distinguish moral from conventional behavior based in part on the responses of parents, teachers, and peers. From this perspective, moral development involves children’s increasing compliance with and internalization of adult rules, requests, and standards of behavior. Researchers interested in intergroup attitudes and behaviour related to ones moral development have approached the study of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination in children and adolescents from several theoretical perspectives. One explicit manner in which societies can socialize individuals is through moral education. Culture can also be a key contributor toward differences in morality within society.
Prosocial behavior, which is behavior that benefits others, is much more likely in societies with strong social goals rather than societies which emphasize the individual. One cannot rightly pass moral judgement on members of other cultures except by their own cultural standards when actions violate a moral principle, which may differ from one’s own. The role of religion in a culture may have an impact on a child’s moral development and sense of moral identity. Values are transmitted through religion, which is for many inextricably linked to a cultural identity. Religious development often goes along with moral development of the children as it shapes the child’s concepts of right and wrong.
In Indigenous American communities, morality is taught to children through storytelling. It provides children guidelines for understanding the core values of their community, the significance of life and ideologies of moral character from past generations. Storytelling in everyday life is used as an indirect form of teaching. Stories embedded with lessons of morals, ideals, and ethics are told alongside daily household chores. Specific animals are used as characters to symbolize specific values and views of the culture in the storytelling where listeners are taught through the actions of these characters.
Intergroup exclusion context provides an appropriate platform to investigate the interplay of these three dimensions of intergroup attitudes and behaviors, prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination. Findings from a Social Domain Theory perspective show that children are sensitive to the context of exclusion and pay attention to different variables when judging or evaluating exclusion. The healthcare system has many examples where morality and resource allocation has ongoing conflicts. Concerns of morality arise when the initiation, continuation, and withdrawal of intensive care affects a patients well being due to medical decision making. Freud, Women, and Morality: The Psychology of Good and Evil. Piaget, Psychology and Education: Papers in Honour of Jean Piaget. The Culture of Morality: Social Development, Context, and Conflict.
The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice. Young children’s coordination of motive and outcome in judgments of satisfaction and morality. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2, 73-81. The accidental transgressor: Testing theory of mind and morality knowledge in young children.