Intersections with Attachment

By Jacob L. Gewirtz; William M. Kurtines | Go to book overview

moral action. This is implied by the notion that moral attachment leads to the formation of a moral self with moral obligations to parents and parental standards. This sense of obligation to the human foci of attachment precedes and induces a sense of responsibility and resulting commitment to moral action regarding those obligations. The sense of responsibility and the commitment to moral action, however, presuppose a more general motivational system that we have termed the self. There are, we believe, two components of this system.

The first component is what Robert White ( 1959) called "competence" or "effectance motivation" and Piaget has called the functional tendencies to assimilation and accommodation. This involves the primary disposition to do things that are interesting, powerful, competent, or causally effective. Such a disposition is involved in early imitation ( Kohlberg, 1969). In this sense, the usual notions of motivation are ignored; the organism is active and does not require drives or needs to engage in action. Action is steered cognitively by characteristics of persons, activities, and objects such as being interesting, competent and so forth. The second component of the motivational system we have termed the self is a primary tendency to value the self, commonly called a concern for self-esteem. The interest and competence of an activity or person are not only naturally valued, but they are perceived in relation to a self that is of central interest and value to the infant. There is no reason to term such self-valuing narcissism except within a drive theory of motivation. The primacy of such self- valuing is preserved by the notion we developed following Ausubel ( Ausubel et al., 1980), that identification and attachment are related to one another and rested on the phenomenon of vicarious self-esteem.

In our stage structure research, we have been able to show that much action involving choice between two norms is predicted and explained by moral reasoning (i.e., by the relative perceived adequacy of the reasons for following one norm over another) ( Kohlberg, 1984), what could be termed deontic action. Other moral action, however, involves a conflict between self-interest or valuing the self (and its success prestige and private or egoistic goals), and what we have called the moral self and its integrity or consistency ( Blasi, 1984), which may be viewed as a motivational system. This system, as we have held, emanates from moral attachment, a process resting on primary self-valuation or effectance.


CONCLUSIONS

We have discussed a developmental sequence and cluster of imitation leading to identification leading to moral attachment. In the sense in which this attachment cluster leads to a creation of the "contents" and "motivation" of the moral self, it should be considered moral attachment. Those contents that the self comes to value morally is what it has interiorized ( Ausubel et al., 1980) through the processes of imitation and identification of those to whom it has become attached: parents, mentors, and groups (i.e., attachment objects/foci--we do not

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