A child grows through a set of developmental components and moral development is a well-known and important one of those. Before we start talking about this article we need to clearly understand what moral development is? “It is actually a set of appropriate attitudes and behaviors to distinguish wrong from right and act appropriately towards the society in accordance to the social and cultural norms”.(Krapp, K. and Cengage, J. W. 2008). In this article ‘Laurence J. W., Karl H. H. & Tobias, K. (2000) Parents and Peer Contexts for children’s moral reasoning development. Child development Rev 2000; 71: 1033–1048.’ moral development/moral reasoning which is an important aspect of cognitive development of children has been studied very thoroughly with evidence-based explanations from the work of many psychologists based on the theories designed for studying moral development in children. “In the introduction part, this article mentions that some children show inappropriate moral growth in some instances and others show different which is showing a need for assessing the reasons to it” (Laurence J. W., Karl H. H. & Tobias, K. (2000). Moral development is a process of development and it continues the whole life it is not fixed learning that would not change. The ability of moral reasoning can even present one-eighty angle differently at different occasions depending on a sudden shift in the living circumstances of a living being. To ascertain who can help a child grow morally better is primarily the age of the child, then the parents, and then comes the society. Moral growth has stages to it, each stage occurs at a certain age under certain circumstances with a particular set of people. There are different views about this development like Freud claims that “the quality of the relationship the child has with his/her parent/s greatly affects the way the child develops morally” (Yahoo answers, 2008).
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This research study addressed “the polarization among theoretical perspectives in moral psychology regarding the relative significance of parents and peers in children’s developing moral maturity. The study duration was 4 years and the sample included 60 target children from late childhood and mid-adolescence, 60 parents/parent, and 60 friends of no sex specification who participated in parent/child and friend/child dyadic discussions of a series of moral conflicts. The quality of parents’ and friends’ verbal interactions, ego functioning, and level of moral reasoning in these discussions was used to predict the rate of children’s moral reasoning development over a 4-year longitudinal interval. Results revealed that interactions with both parents and peers were predictive of children’s development but these two types of relationships influence development in rather different ways. Implications of the findings for the understanding of these socialization agents’ roles in moral development are also discussed in this research article”. (Laurence J. W., Karl H. H. & Tobias, K. 2000). The main focus of this article is to ascertain whether parents or peers are the better teachers for a child’s moral development. It depends on the age of the child being interviewed. If it is a child in an age where he/she has newly gone out of the home he/she will feel more comfortable with his/her parents than peers but if a child of age 10-16 years is interviewed who has already got enough exposure to the society will feel more comfortable with peers as is the case with this study as well. In this research study, we see that children of age 10-16 years have been interviewed and their responses show that in terms of operational moral reasoning they are good with peers but for representational ones, they are more comfortable with their parents. The representational component is an outcome of foundational knowledge which works in every matter but operational is the one learned from exposure to society or is learned out of the competitive life with peers. Similarly, gender is the most important factor affecting moral development, girls perceive and interpret things differently than boys so taking only boys as study subjects will not be a representative sample of that age. If children of different ages, from different cultures, with different sex are tested through the same set of questions by the same investigator the results are not going to be authentic and we should not be generalizing them to all children. This research article has got all these issues and hence the results are only valid circumstantially.
The method of conducting this research study is very good in some aspects like, the sample size is good, the duration of conduction of the study is great and the way responses are recorded is also appropriate but for some children, it might be difficult to take care of their anxiety level while going through the process of questions answer specially the use of multimedia to get the responses recorded. That might alter their theme of thinking and they might not respond the best possible way which they can otherwise do. In child peer conversation sessions the factor of whether they are made to talk with the same gender or opposite one also affects the outcome. Moral development is the kind of growth that is composed of more of one’s internal feelings and thoughts and that can not be expressed fully. Like for example if a child needs to cheat a friend to get a better score in a class assignment and later he realizes that this was wrong will he/she be able to say it fully out. If he/she had to say 20 things about this situation he/ she will not even be able to 10 things out of that, because moral thinking is very personal thinking of someone and no one wants to share it fully. For example, as Freud says “The child wishes to have his opposite-sex parent all to itself and feels jealous and hostile towards the same-sex parent. This is the Oedipus/Electra conflict. To deal with these hostile feelings and avoid punishment, the child develops the superego through identification with the parent of the same sex. They take on the parent’s characteristics, thereby identifying with society’s norm. Lastly, the children turn the hostile feelings towards themselves, which leads to guilt each time the superego is ignored, and the child follows their id impulses.”(Deigh, J. 1984). Now out of this whole feeling child wouldn’t even say a word out. To take care of this special aspect of moral reasoning, there should have been a set with child separately as well to see what will be the response when no one else is around. This study has not covered that aspect of finding out the actual level of moral reasoning and therefore to claim that this study is conclusive of what it is coming up with is not true. There is still a need for more sophisticated or more indirect ways of studying this aspect of growth and not merely by direct questioning in front of either parents or peers. To some extent, this study has rightly demarcated the “types of moral learning like operational, representational, informative, supportive, interfering and miscellaneous”. (Laurence J. W., Karl H. H. & Tobias, K. (2000) While conducting this study to judge all of these separately so, that it could also be concluded which moral learning grows when and with whom better is not been done by the researcher in the subject study. To get to moral reasoning, one needs to explore a lot more which directly or indirectly influence the learning relationship with parents and peers than just what has been covered.
For someone to have moral reasoning one has to have a sound knowledge of their social, cultural, ritual, and religious norms. One also has to have a sound knowledge of the laws, roles, and regulations in that society. To confirm that peers can provide better assistance than parents for a child’s growth of moral reasoning is a bold step and it has to have a solid ground to say that. What comes out of the experience is that the foundation is provided by the parents which are basically the operational moral reasoning and then children are exposed to society to judge what is right and what is wrong. It is just a variety of situations they see with peers but the basic knowledge is there from the teaching from their parents and this is actually like constructing a new building of multiple stories on the foundation that has been placed by the parents. This study has summarized the work of all the psychologists that have been involved in the moral development of children at different stages in history which is a plus point for it. Everything said is based on evidence, it is a study conducted in four years so before a child’s level of moral learning is decided the researcher had enough time to understand and confirm it fully. During these four years, they could have studied the moral growth of a child by providing him/ her controlled exposure but that has not been done and the difference of opinion and also the amount of difference of conservativeness a male or female gender have in the moral understanding and expression of things and situations.
- Laurence J. W., Karl H. H. & Tobias, K. (2000) Parents and Peer Contexts for children’s moral reasoning development. Child development Rev 2000; 71: 1033–1048.
- Deigh, J. (1984). Remarks on Some Difficulties in Freud’s Theory of Moral Development. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 11:207-225.
- “Moral Development.” Encyclopedia of Children’s Health. Ed. Kristine Krapp and Jeffrey Wilson. Gale Cengage, 2005. eNotes.com.
- Yahoo answers (2008) What is your understanding of Moral Development as it Relates to children? [Internet], resolved questions. Web.