Psychology of the Child and the Adolescent

By Robert I. Watson; Henry Clay Lindgren | Go to book overview

Taking all evidence together, it does seem that social learning plays some part in the development of moral judgment, perhaps more in the initial stages than the later ones. Hoffman ( 1970) suggests that as the child develops his cognitive abilities and interacts with his peers, he reevaluates and shifts his view of authority and regulations, so that they are no longer arbitrary and external, but internalized and rational. During this period, too, children are learning to control antisocial impulses--learning, in effect, to feel anxious and guilty when social norms are violated, even when authority figures are absent.

But something else appears to be needed, over and beyond give-and- take with one's peers, if a child is to develop an adequate degree of moral sensitivity. Hoffman ( 1975) suggests that this "something else" is parental discipline--not discipline in the narrow sense of punishment, but discipline in the broader sense whereby the parent intervenes, admonishes, insists, interprets, restrains, reprimands, makes statements about what is good and what is bad, exacts penalties, encourages, praises--in other words, does all the things that parents do to get their children to conform to the behavior standards they believe are appropriate. Hoffman says that parental discipline is important because it gives children the experience they need in order to achieve a balance between expressing and controlling their desires--experience they must have in order to "internalize" the necessary controls. A quotation from a presentation by Eleanor E. Maccoby ( 1975) is relevant here:

An effective parent must adjust himself to the child's rhythm and be quick to recognize the signs when the input to the child is too much or too little. This does not mean that the parent must allow the child to take complete control of their interactions nor let the child rule the household omnipotently. The firm boundary conditions that a parent sets for the child's actions, and the parent's own needs and reactions, are part of the environmental conditions the child needs to learn about; but the parent's rules can be made more or less learnable.

In its mature form, morality is more than self-control and knowing when to inhibit and when to express one's feelings; it also includes prosocial feelings, especially a sensitivity to the needs of others. Empathy plays a key role here, because it is through becoming aware of others' views and feelings that a child is enabled to grow up to be a truly socialized--and civilized--adult.


summary

Reading, which is largely a cognitive process, has its motivational aspects, as is demonstrated by an experiment in which girls displayed approximately the same level of reading competency irrespective of

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