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Landmarks of Moral Formation in Early Childhood Daniel Lapsley University of Notre Dame Dan Darcia www.nd.edu/~dlapsle1/Lab Conference on Infant and Toddler.

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Presentation on theme: "Landmarks of Moral Formation in Early Childhood Daniel Lapsley University of Notre Dame Dan Darcia www.nd.edu/~dlapsle1/Lab Conference on Infant and Toddler."— Presentation transcript:

1 Landmarks of Moral Formation in Early Childhood Daniel Lapsley University of Notre Dame Dan Darcia Conference on Infant and Toddler Mental Health, August 12, 2011

2 Morality is “declarative” knowledge It is deliberative, explicit, propositional It is wrestling with dilemmas It is “knowing that” Infant Morality and the “Received View”

3 But self and morality develop before onset of reflective self-awareness By age 3 the child’s self is a moral self The child has internalized “rules” of what to do and not to do Displays moral affect Engages in prosocial sharing Regulates conflict between personal needs and social obligations Is governed by internal standards

4 Landmarks Moral Self of Infancy Empathy and Prosocial Behavior Toddlers Norms, Standards Concepts Conscience Social-Cognitive (“Narrative”) Approach

5 (1) Biologically prepared “motives” (2) Procedural knowledge Origins of the Moral Self? Robert Emde “In my beginning is my end.” ---T. S. Eliot (East Coker)

6 Procedural Knowledge Information that underlies skills that need not be represented consciously It is knowing how---but we know more than we can say Intelligent systems can manifest rule-governed behavior without any explicit representation of the rule System 1 vs. System 2

7 System 1System 2 Non-consciousConscious Implicit-tacitExplicit IntuitiveAnalytical AssociativeRule-Based Acquired by: Biology, exposure, personal experience Acquired by: Formal instruction Procedural Knowledge (knowing how) Declarative Knowledge (knowing that)

8 The early self develops procedurally “Existential self” is the first self of infancy (independent existence and agency) Infants’ behavior is coherent, organized, rule- governed, but not always based on acquisition of explicit rules But acquired piecemeal via day-to-day interactions with caregivers Emde (1991)

9 Early moral development is based on knowledge that is organized procedurally Infants act in accordance with moral rules ----but need not recall them to follow them What is source of this procedural knowledge? Infants are biologically prepared for it! Five “motives” built into our species by evolution And consolidated into an “affective core”

10 ? Five Motives and the “Affective Core” of the Moral Self MotivesDescription ActivityBasic tendencies for exploration, mastery Self-RegulationPropensity to regulate physiology and behavior “built-in” developmental goals Social FittednessInfants pre-adapted for initiating, maintaining & terminating interactions (e.g, regulating caregivers, behavioral synchrony, joint visual attention) Affective MonitoringMonitor experiences according to what is pleasurable Infant affect guides parental care Emotional communication increasingly salient by 6 mo. “Social referencing” Cognitive assimilationInfant seeks out the novel to make it familiar “basic fact of life” (Piaget) But operation, activation and consolidation of basic motives requires a sensitive, responsive infant- care-giver relationship i.e., the affective core requires a context Source: Emde et al (1991)

11 Early Caregiver Interactions as ….Theorist Affective “dialogues”Spitz “good-enough mothering”Winnicott Sensitivity and attunement to infant’s emotional signals and needs Bowlby Contextual Model Caregivers regulatory role in structuring the continuity of early experience…. Theorist “holding” or “facilitating” environmentWinnicott Emotional “re-fueling”Mahler “mirroring” supportKohut Emde et al. (1991)

12 An Early Moral Self Infant rule-learning originates in inborn propensity and in expectable caregiver relationship experiences Reciprocity Norm Violations Empathy-Sharing Emde et al (1991)

13 Reciprocity Develops from basic motive of social fittedness Early face-to-face turn-taking with mother an example of internalized rules about reciprocity Rules about how to communicate---engage, maintain and terminate social interactions are operative before language Are internalized as result of pleasurable caregiver experiences and come to form early motives and procedures for social turn-taking Emde et al (1991)

14 Is this morality? Reciprocity is the “foundation stone” of moral systems Do unto others…

15 Norm Violations Another feature of basic morality becomes differentiated by end of second year….. Anxiety when internal standards are violated New affective way for “cognitive assimilation” to show itself i.e., for “getting it right” Is this morality? All systems of morality require internalized standards, and “unease” when violated Child’s early moral self has emotional procedures that guide the process by age 3

16 Empathy Empathy: affective response that stems from apprehension of another’s emotional state & is similar to what the other is feeling or would be expected to feel in given situation; Rules for turn-taking and social communication cultivate empathy Has strong maturational basis Empathy and helping influenced by quality of caregiving Infants produce and comprehend emotional gestures and signal in play episodes; Can use emotional expressions of others to regulate own emotions

17 Empathy By the first birthday: Is aware that self and others are independent and that minds can be interfaced Inter-subjectivity can be generated by emotional signalling

18 By 20 months: Infants can label some emotional states By 24 months: can make causal statements (“You sad, Mommy……what daddy do?”) By 24 months children have internalized rules for “do’s” and “don’ts” ---(at least in presence of caregiver) Toddlers are empathically responsive to mood states of others and can reproduce or share in emotion states of others Pre-schoolers can correctly identify emotional reactions of others and its causes

19 Social referencing Searching for emotional signals during prohibitions Repeated looking before or after prohibited act Or for permitted acts

20 Is this morality? People who experience another’s emotions and feel concern are expected to help, be altruistic and prosocial; Only prosocial behaviors motivated by empathy-sympathy have moral significance

21 Empathy and Prosocial Behavior Eisenberg Children under 2 often share toys and give things away By age 2, can verbalize understanding of another’s needs, wants, intentions And comfort a younger sibling, will attempt to alleviate distress by sympathy, offering help These prosocial inclinations are observed throughout early childhood

22 1983, Child Development When young children heard infants cry: Children as young as 4-5 displayed signs of emotional arousal Made empathic statements Offered to help (especially when cries were not too intense and baby’s mother was present) Zahn-Waxler

23 Observed sympathetic concern and prosocial behavior co- occur even at age 2 And co-occur in early childhood When 4-5 year olds witnessed someone in distress, children in all risk groups (low-moderate-hi) showed similar empathic concern and prosocial behavior Moderate and high risk children were less able to remain positively engaged with distress victims

24 Tomasello After a 3-year old witnessed a puppet destroy another puppet’s belongings: Intervened on behalf of absent victim (verbally protested) Tattled on transgressors Acted pro-socially on behalf of victims of transgression Children as young as 3 years of age actively intervene in third-party moral transgressions….and in defense of moral norms!

25 Summary The building blocks of the moral self are evident in infancy The affective core is organized into procedural moral understanding Reciprocity Norm-Violations Empathy and Prosocial Behavior Fashioned in sensitive, reciprocal exchanges with emotionally-available caregivers But there is room for improvement!

26 Present 4-, 6- and 8 year olds a situation where a child commits a moral transgression e.g., steals another’s candy, pushes a child off a swing Then ask: “How would the victimizer feel?” W. Arsenio Nearly all 4- and 6-year olds and most 8-year olds predicted that the victimizer –who gets what he or she wants--- would be happy “Happy Victimizer” The young child has difficulty coordinating material gain of the victimizer with negative consequences to the victim

27 Landmarks Moral Self of Infancy Empathy and Prosocial Behavior Toddler’s Norms, Standards, Concepts Conscience Narrative Self

28 Sensitivity to Norms and Standards “Ought” Young children develop early normative expectations Towards end of the second year Toddlers become concerned with how things ought to be e.g., names of things they are learning e.g., behavioral routines (inflexible about bedtime rituals) e.g., violations of appearance Children are constructing representations of how things are done and are sensitive to violations of normative expectations

29 J. Kagan 19-month olds respond negatively and with concern when faced with objects that have been marred, damaged or disfigured Missing buttons, torn pages, broken toys---react with interest, attention and negative evaluation (“It’s yukky!”) --touching the flaw --concern about who was responsible Interpreted as emerging moral sense These damaged objects violate implicit norms of wholeness that parents enforce through sanctions on breaking or damaging objects But perhaps not an emerging moral sense

30 R. Thompson Is the sensitivity to norms specific to “wrong- doing” (i.e., broken or damaged) Or whether children respond to anything that is simply atypical (e.g., being the wrong color) Compared toddlers response to toy different from the norm in several ways: Some were broken or damaged (teddy bear with one eye missing) Others were functionally impaired without being broken (e.g., teddy bear without stuffing) Some functional and intact but abnormal (e.g., teddy bear with psychedelic colors with wings)

31 Courtesy of Ross Thompson

32 Toddlers 14 to 23 months Regardless of age---young children showed no differential responding to the objects implying wrong-doing Instead, they responded with interest, affect and attention to all forms of atypicality –damaged, functionally impaired or abnormal Rather than an emerging moral sense---toddlers’ reaction to broken toys and disfigured objects a more general sensitivity to events different from conventional norms This sensitivity becomes enlisted into an early moral sensibility as children come to learn that broken and marred objects are also disapproved Here---what is atypical is interesting not only because it violates a norm, but is also forbidden Thompson (2009)

33 Toddler’s Moral Concepts Toddler’s moral judgments nuanced by their understanding of different domains of rules Moral v. Conventional judgments can be distinguished along several criteria (alterability, contingency, generality, seriousness) 3.5 year olds distinguish moral and conventional rules on all criteria; 3 year olds distinguish only generality 2 year olds did not distinguish on any criteria

34 J. Smetana 24 and 36 month old children Videotaped in two 45-minute sessions at home (1)With mother alone (2)With mother and peers Moral transgressions more frequent in peer interactions Conventional transgressions more frequent with mother alone Mothers response to conventional violations focuses on social order or social regulation Response to moral transgressions focuses transgressor on consequences of actions on rights or welfare of victim

35 Landmarks Moral Self of Infancy Empathy and Prosocial Behavior Toddler’s Norms, Standards, Concepts Conscience Narrative Self

36 Conscience Grazyna Kochanska Inner guiding system responsible for gradual emergence and maintenance of self-regulation Inner self-regulatory system consisting of moral emotions, conduct, cognitions Conscience influence how children construct and act consistently with generalizable internal standards of conduct Range of individual differences Different pathways to conscience Two sources of individual differences: (1) Biologically-based temperament (2) Socialization experiences with early caregivers

37 Kochanska’s Model Emerging morality begins with quality of parent-child attachment Strong mutually responsive relationship to caregivers orients child to be receptive to parental influence “Mutually-Responsive Orientation” (MRO) MRO characterized by “shared positive affect” Mutually coordinated enjoyable routines (“good times”) “cooperative interpersonal set” Joint willingness of parent and child to initiate and reciprocate relational overtures

38 Within MRO, and the secure attachment it denotes, that the child is eager to comply with parental expectations and standards “committed compliance” to norms and values of caregivers Which motivates moral internalization and “conscience”

39 Two Main Components of Early Conscience Rule-compatible, internalized conduct (rule compliance without surveillance) Moral emotion (empathy) Children who comply with rules even without supervision Who feel empathic concern towards others’ distress Who feel discomfort when they commit transgressions Psychosocial competence Positive development

40 Children who experience a highly responsive relationship with mothers over first 24 months strongly embraced maternal prohibitions And gave evidence of strong self-regulation at pre- school age

41 Security of Attachment (MRO) Committed Compliance Moral Internalization “Children with a strong history of committed compliance with the parent are likely gradually to come to view themselves as embracing the parent’s values and rules. Such a moral self, in turn, comes to serve as the regulator of future moral conduct and, more generally, of early morality” (p. 340) But children bring something to the interaction….their temperament

42 Multiple pathways to conscience One parenting style not uniformly more effective irrespective of child’s temperament Children who are “fearful” would profit from gentle, low power-assertive discipline “silken glove” But “fearless” children would require not the “iron hand” but discipline that capitalizes on positive emotions

43 Longitudinal assessment: 25 mos., 38mos., 52 mos., 67 mos. & 80 mos. Two, 2-3 hour laboratory session, one with each parent At 38 months, one home and one lab (with each parent) Child’s internalization of each parent’s rules and empathy towards parents’ distress observed in scripted paradigms at 25mo., 38mo. & 52 mos. Moral self assessed with “puppet interview” Adaptive, competent, prosocial and antisocial behavior rated by parents & teachers Overview of Methodology

44 Moral Self Two puppets anchor opposite ends of 31 items The items pertain to dimensions of early conscience (e.g., internalization of rules, empathy, apology, etc) Each item presented with brief scenario, with one puppet endorsing one option and the second puppet the other option (“with equally self-righteous voices”) Puppet 1: “When I break something, I try to hide it so no one finds out.” Puppet 2: “When I break something, I tell someone right away.” Then the child is asked: “What about you? Do you try to hide something that you broke or do you tell someone right away?”

45 Other Assessments (at 80 mos.) MacArthur Health Behavior Questionnaire (parents & teachers) School engagement Peer relations Prosocial behavior Problem behavior Child Symptom Inventory Opposition defiant items Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits (parents) Absences of guilt & empathy Disregard for rules & standards

46 Children who as toddlers & preschoolers had strong history of internalized “out-of-sight” compliance with parents’ rules Were competent, engaged, prosocial with few antisocial behavioral problems at early school age Strong history of empathic responding at toddlers/preschool Psychosocial competence at early school age What mechanism accounts for this beneficial effect? The Moral Self Children’s moral self robustly predicted future competent behavior Children at 67 mos. who were “highly moral” were rated at 80 mos. as highly competent, prosocial and having few antisocial problems

47 Fig. 2 Kochanska et al (2010)

48 Fig. 3 Kochanska et al. (2010)

49 How does the moral self execute its inner guidance role? Mechanisms not completely clear Kochanka suggests avoidance of cognitive dissonance anticipation of guilty feelings, automatic regulation due to high accessibility of moral schemas

50 “ In the end is my beginning” ---T.S. Eliot (East Coker) Moral Self of Infancy Conscienc e “In my beginning is my end.” ---T. S. Eliot (East Coker)

51 Dan & Darcia Social-Cognitive Approach “Moral “chronicity” built on foundation of generalized “event representations” Event representations as “basic building blocks” of cognitive development Are elaborated in dialogues with caregivers who help children review and consolidate memories in script-like fashion At some point specific episodic memories must be integrated into a narrative form that references a self whose story it is, Episodic memory transformed into autobiographical memory

52 Parental interrogatories “What happened when you pushed your sister?” “What should you do next?” Are a scaffold that helps children structure events in a narrative fashion And provides, as part of the self-narrative, action- guiding scripts “I apologize” That become over-learned, routine, habitual, automatic. Parents help children identify morally relevant features of their experience and encourage formation of social cognitive schemas that are chronically accessible.

53 Landmarks Moral Self of Infancy Empathy and Prosocial Behavior Toddlers Norms, Standards Concepts Conscience Social-Cognitive (“Narrative”) Approach


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