Emotional Development and Moral Development
How do genetic and environmental factors work together to influence emotional and moral development? What can parents do to ensure healthy emotional and moral development with their children?
This week you’re going on a field trip – an internet field trip! Please do a search online for a current event that relates to the material in the reading this week. Give a brief summary of what you found and explain how it fits in with what you learned this week. Don’t forget to cite your source!
Emotional Development and Moral Development
This week we will explore the functions of emotions, the development of emotional expression and emotional understanding, the role of temperament, and the development and significance of attachment. Additionally, we will study moral development. Topics involving moral development will include the study of morality as the adoption of societal norms, morality as social understanding, moral reasoning of young children, the development of self-control, and the development of aggression.
Topics to be covered include:
- Stages of Emotional Development
- Moral Development
Emotion is defined as a rapid appraisal of the personal significance of a situation that prepares us for action. When you experience something that is personally relevant, there is physiological response in your body that causes a behavioral response. If you get into an argument, someone you love smiles at you, or you accomplish a challenging task, you feel a surge of emotion. Your behavioral responses to your emotions is part of what makes you unique!
Theorists with a functionalist approach to emotion believe that emotions play an integral role in cognitive processing, social behavior, and physical health. They believe that the purpose of emotions is to motivate behavior aimed at accomplishing personal goals. If you have a goal in mind, the anticipation of the outcome, as well as the outcome itself, triggers emotions that help dictate your response. As an individual interacts with his or her environment and situations change, emotions change.
We see how cognition and emotions work together when we consider the impact of anxiety on performance. When anxiety levels rise, thinking skills are often impacted, as attention given to mental processing is now occupied with thoughts of worry. In addition, children who become distressed tend to better recall that particular experience, showing emotion is linked to memory. We also previously learned that two childhood growth disorders, nonorganic failure to thrive and psychosocial dwarfism, result from emotional deprivation.
The progression of emotional expression occurs with age. In early infancy, happiness is displayed through smiles and laughter, often as a reaction to parental affection or the achievement of sensorimotor goals. Infants also begin to experience anger (as a result of not being able to control their surroundings as expected) and fear (typically as a result of being around unfamiliar adults). Angry reactions increase with age into the second year, which motivates caregivers to ease the baby’s distress. Fear, on the other hand, arises in the second half of the first year but eventually decreases. The initial rise in fear also keeps traveling babies safer when exploring their environment.
Toddlers begin to display higher-order, self-conscious emotions, such as guilt, shame, embarrassment, envy, and pride as they grow in self-awareness. These types of emotions involve injury to our sense of self and begin to appear at the end of the second year. Learning to manage these emotions comes with the support of adults, whose feedback encourages or discourages the emotions in specific settings and situations. This, again, varies widely from culture to culture. As emotional management develops, young children become increasingly sensitive to praise or blame from caregivers and emotions become associated with self-evaluation. How adults handle feedback is important to a child’s developing self-esteem.
Self-Regulation of Emotions
Over time, children must learn to control their own emotions and emotional responses, a concept known as emotional self-regulation. The ability to adjust an emotional state depends on several cognitive strategies, including attention focusing and shifting, inhibiting certain thoughts and behaviors, and making a plan to relieve stress. This regulation is influenced by both adult instruction and cultural expectations and is an important part of adapting to the physical and social environment in which a child is raised.
In infancy, babies mainly use social referencing to evaluate situations. In other words, they observe how others react to determine if a situation is positive or negative. Babies learn to turn away from unpleasant situations or engage in self-soothing strategies when upset. Sympathetic rather than impatient parental responses make babies easier to soothe and encourage self-calming strategies.
TEMPERAMENT‹ 1/6 ›
- Temperament is defined as early-appearing, stable individual differences in reactivity and self-regulation. Both temperament and parenting play a role in the development and expression of empathy. It makes sense that children who are friendly, confident, and successful at self-regulation are more likely to empathize with others than children who are antagonistic and struggle with regulation of emotions.
Let’s review some models and influences of temperament.
Attachment is the strong affectionate tie that develops between infants and the familiar people who respond to their needs. Infants grow attached to those around them who give them what they need. Bowlby’s ethological theory of attachment recognizes the infant’s emotional tie to the caregiver as an evolved response that promotes survival. He also proposed that the quality of this attachment affects the child’s long-term emotions and ability to form trusting relationships. As attachment develops, we observe babies displaying separation anxiety when the primary caregiver leaves. Children, on the other hand, depend less on the physical proximity of caregivers because they are aware of the emotional bond even during separation. Instead, an image of the caregiver serves as an internal working model, which becomes a vital part of the child’s personality, guiding future close relationships. An internal working model is a set of expectations about the availability of attachment figures, their likelihood of providing support during times of stress, and the self’s interaction with those figures.
Through Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation technique (an experiment that takes the baby through eight short episodes in which brief separations from and reunions with the caregiver occur) and other tools for measuring the quality of infant attachment, researchers have identified a secure attachment pattern and several patterns of insecurity (avoidant, resistant, and disorganized/disoriented).
Attachment security is influenced by several factors, including opportunity for attachment, quality of caregiving, infant characteristics, family circumstances, and the parents’ own internal working models. Sensitive caregiving by fathers, similar to mothers, predicts secure attachment; however, typically mothers devote more time to care and affection, while fathers are more prone to playful interaction. The evidence regarding the relationship between secure attachment in infancy and later cognitive, emotional, and social competence is contradictory, but steadiness of caregiving seems to be a significant element in this relationship. As we continue to see a shift towards more mothers entering the workforce, we begin to look at quality of care beyond that of the parent-child relationship. Evidence suggests that quality of care is critically important. Standards for developmentally appropriate child care exist, but the United States and Canada both fall behind European nations in providing child care that is nationally regulated and adequately funded.
Which is a strategy used by children in order to gather emotional information from a trusted person in an uncertain situation?Emotion-centered copingInternal working modelProblem-centered copingSocial referencingI don’t knowOne attemptSubmit answerYou answered 0 out of 0 correctly. Asking up to 1.
Analyzing research studies in the area of emotional development can assist in understanding of key concepts of emotions. The first case study illustrates the effects of early and later maternal sensitivity on children’s social development. The second case study examines the relationship between identity status and romantic attachment style in adolescence, including developmental differences between younger and older adolescents.
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- STUDY 1
A Longitudinal Study of Maternal Sensitivity and Adopted Children’s Social Development
Sensitive caregiving is moderately related in attachment security in both biological and adoptive mother–infant pairs and in diverse cultures and SES groups. To examine the effects of early and later maternal sensitivity on children’s social development, Jaffari-Bimmel and colleagues (2006) followed 160 internationally adopted children from infancy to age 14. All of the children were placed in adoptive families by age six months, and the families were predominantly middle- or upper-middle class.
The researchers collected the following information:
- When the children were five months old, their adoptive mothers rated their health condition on arrival (that is, at the time of adoption)—birth weight, incidence of prematurity, and health problems.
- When the children were 12 months old, attachment security was assessed using Ainsworth’s Strange Situation.
- At ages 12, 18, and 30 months, maternal sensitivity was assessed at home and in the laboratory. While the children and their mothers completed age-appropriate tasks like putting together puzzles and building with blocks, trained researchers coded for emotional support, respect for the child’s autonomy, structure and limit setting, hostility, and quality of instruction.
- At ages seven and 14 years, maternal sensitivity was again assessed in the home. While the children and their mothers worked on a difficult, age-appropriate puzzle, trained researchers coded for supportive presence, intrusiveness, and sensitivity, timing, and clarity of instruction.
- When the children were ages 12, 18, and 30 months and ages seven and 14 years, their adoptive mothers completed an attachment questionnaire. In infancy, the researchers were primarily interested in mood and resistance. In middle childhood and adolescence, the researchers focused on aggression, reactivity, and restlessness.
- When children were ages seven and 14 years, adoptive mothers and teachers completed a measure of social development. The questionnaire focused on social acceptance, social rejection, pro-social competence, friendliness, and social esteem.
- When the children were ages seven and 14 years, their adoptive mothers reported on the degree to which the family had experienced stressful life events during the past two years. The instrument included physical health problems of relatives, bereavement, unemployment, divorce, financial problems, marital problems, problems at work, and conflict with relatives and/or neighbors.
Findings indicated that developmental history and sensitive caregiving in infancy and middle childhood predicted social development at age 14. That is, participants who were healthy at the time of adoption and experienced few stressful life events and received sensitive caregiving in both infancy and middle childhood were rated higher in social development (by adoptive mothers and teachers) than peers who were unhealthy at the time of adoption, experienced a large number of stressful life events, and received less-sensitive caregiving in infancy and middle childhood. Another important finding was that maternal sensitivity in middle childhood and adolescence helped buffer against the negative effects of a difficult temperament. Children with a difficult temperament who experienced high levels of maternal sensitivity in middle childhood and adolescence had more favorable social development at age 14 than children with a difficult temperament who experienced insensitive caregiving. Finally, consistent with previous studies, attachment security in infancy was moderately related to social development at ages seven and 14. Compared to their insecurely attached counterparts, secure children scored higher in social acceptance, pro-social competence, friendliness, and social esteem. Taken together, these findings show that both early and later maternal sensitivity is important for children’s social development.
All cultures promote morality through a predominant social design that stipulates rules for proper conduct. Morality includes emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components, as people think and feel morally significant thoughts, but may or may not act in accordance with them. Truly moral individuals have developed compassionate concerns and ideals of good conduct.
- PERSPECTIVES ON MORALITY
Let us consider the biological perspective on morality. Morality is grounded in our genetic heritage, perhaps through pre-wired emotional reactions. Ethologists have found evidence that ethical behaviors are rooted in our evolutionary history. We share many morally relevant behaviors with other species, as many animals have been observed instinctively coming to the aid of other animals, particularly those within their species or family groups. In humans, areas within the prefrontal cortex are vital for emotional sensitivity to the distress of others. Adults with damage to this area of the brain have difficulty reacting with empathy or following social models for morality. However, we must look beyond human nature and consider that many self-conscious emotions develop out of the support of loving caregivers and advanced cognitive development.
Theories for Morality as Social Understanding
You may recall learning about Piaget’s stages of cognitive development. His work on moral development is based in his cognitive theory. Piaget proposed that young children experience two general stages of moral development.
- HETERONOMOUS MORALITY
Children between the ages of five and eight years of age exhibit heteronomous morality, viewing rules handed down by authorities as permanent and unchangeable. This rigid need to follow the rules shows limited moral understanding, as rules are viewed as absolutes rather than principles that can be modified depending on the situation.
Although many agree with Piaget’s assumption that moral development is reinforced by cognitive maturity, gradual release from adult control, and peer interaction, critics of Piaget’s theory believe he underestimated the moral capacities of children, as children even as young as age four can recognize the difference between morally relevant, conflicting behaviors (e.g., truthfulness and lying). Furthermore, children do not regard adult authority with the absolute obedience he suggested. Even children as young as three and four express unease at the idea of harming someone at an adult’s command. Finally, it has been noted that many children exhibit both types of morality at the same time, making researchers view moral development as more of a prolonged process.
Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development
This brings us to Kohlberg’s six-stage sequence, which extends Piaget’s stages beyond morality of cooperation. He viewed moral development as more of a gradual process which ranges from childhood into adulthood and used Moral Judgment Interviews to examine how individuals resolve hypothetical moral dilemmas. Kohlberg accentuated that it is the way one reasons about the predicament, not the actual decision that make about it, that determines maturity of moral judgment.
His six stages of moral reasoning are organized into three general levels: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional. He considered these universal stages as occurring in a fixed order. Moral change occurs and moral decisions become more logical as individuals build on their reasoning skills from each previous stage. Progress through the stages is gradual.
Challenges to Kohlberg’s theory include that his stages are too loosely organized, which causes them to overlap. Also, the dilemmas presented to individuals are hypothetical and not real. In a real situation, people’s responses may differ. Kohlberg’s theory has also been challenged on the grounds that it underestimates the moral maturity of females because it undervalues an “ethic of care” more often seen in women and that his research was conducted using only boys. Finally, few individuals are capable of reaching Kohlberg’s highest stage and that postconventional morality should not be considered the only standard of maturity in moral reasoning.
Influences on Moral Reasoning
Moral understanding, like many areas of development, is influenced by a variety of factors. These include personality, child-rearing practices, schooling, peer interaction, and culture. These factors work together to support the development of perspective-taking and provide opportunities for children to think about moral problems in many ways. It makes sense to consider that, as these factors influence moral reasoning, the resulting increase causes moral behavior. However, moral behavior does not always follow from moral understanding but is affected by other factors, including moral self-relevance—the degree to which morality is central to self-concept. When morals are an integral part of an individual’s identity, he or she is more likely to follow through on moral judgments. Parents and teachers who promote empathy and guide children to take responsibility for others and solve disputes in a courteous manner contribute to moral action. In addition, adolescents who remain part of a religious community are typically advantaged over nonaffiliated youths in moral values and behavior, although involvement in religious cults is an exception.
SELF-CONTROL AND AGGRESSION‹ 1/6 ›
- We have previously learned about effortful control, or the extent to which children can manage their reactivity, in relation to emotions. As children progress through moral development, an important aspect for positive growth is self-control. Self-control depends on the ability to resist temptation, which children begin to develop in the second year, as they progress in their abilities to both direct their own actions and carefully apply the directives of others.
Which perspective on morality suggests that morals are attained mainly through modeling and reinforcement?Psychoanalytic perspectiveSocial learning perspectiveBiological perspectiveI don’t knowOne attemptSubmit answerYou answered 0 out of 0 correctly. Asking up to 1.
Emotion is the rapid appraisal of the personal significance of a situation that prepares us for action. Theorists with a functionalist approach to emotion believe that emotions play an integral role in cognitive processing, social behavior, and physical health. They believe that the purpose of emotions is to motivate behavior aimed at accomplishing personal goals. Through the process of social referencing, children learn how to act in certain situations. The progression of emotional expression occurs with age, and, over time, children must learn to control their own emotions and emotional responses using self-regulation strategies. By middle childhood and early adolescence, children greatly improve at regulating emotions, as their strategies become more adaptable and refined.
All cultures promote morality through a predominant social design that stipulates rules for proper conduct. Morality includes emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components, as people think and feel morally significant thoughts, but may or may not act in accordance with them. Children begin to develop a moral identity, or an individual’s endorsement of moral values, such as fairness, kindness, and generosity, as central to his or her self-concept. Moral understanding, like many areas of development, is influenced by a variety of factors. These include personality, child-rearing practices, schooling, peer interaction, and culture. These factors work together to support the development of perspective-taking and provide opportunities for children to think about moral problems in many ways. As children progress through moral development, an important aspect for positive growth is self-control. As metacognition increases, children become better at devising strategies for resisting temptation and self-control becomes a flexible capacity for moral self-regulation.