Handbook of Parenting - Vol. 5

By Marc H. Bornstein | Go to book overview

5
Parenting and Children's Prosocial
and Moral Development
Nancy Eisenberg
Carlos Valientebr
Arizona State University

INTRODUCTION

The topic of this chapter is the relation of parental characteristics and behaviors to children's moral development, including positive (e.g., sharing and guilt) as well as negative aspects (e.g., aggression and other antisocial behaviors) of morality. In addition, because children's motives for their morally relevant behaviors determine whether their actions are truly moral, socialization correlates of moral reasoning also are discussed.

The role of parents in the socialization process has been a topic of considerable debate for decades. Various psychological theories emphasize different mechanisms of socialization and place differing emphasis on the role of the parent versus the child in development (Maccoby, 1992). Moreover, because none of the major theories of development has adequately explained socialization, a number of mini-theories (i.e., a theory designed to deal with one specific issue rather than many aspects of development) have emerged to explain the socialization of morality.

In the first section of this chapter, theories related to the socialization of moral behavior and reasoning are briefly presented. Next, empirical findings regarding the relations of parental practices and characteristics to a variety of morally relevant behaviors are reviewed. In general, we focus on the patterning of findings rather than the specifics of the many studies. Given the large amount of research on some of these topics, our review is not exhaustive; rather, we try to highlight the most recent, consistent, and interesting findings.


THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES ON PARENTING AND PROSOCIAL
AND MORAL DEVELOPMENT

Two grand theories have been central in the literature on socialization: psychoanalytic theory and behaviorism (from which social learning theory evolved; Maccoby, 1992). In addition, two theoretical

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