Impact of Environment and Society on Moral Development: Analytical Essay
The World itself has some basic norms to restrain and prevent the chaos that should apply to all human beings. Both anti-social and moral behavior is determined by how people look after themselves and to others. Basic examples of moral behavior are honesty, respect for oneself and others, tolerance and self-control; people who can differentiate between the good and bad can present moral behavior. Using drugs, drinking an excessive amount of alcohol, gambling, lying, racism, vandalism and being violent are examples of anti-social behavior that are the most common ones among humans.
Developmental psychologists have been doing experiments to understand human behavior for at least a hundred years. In the field of psychology, thousands of researches have been done to understand the reasons behind different behavioral patterns and moral development. While examining the impact of environment and society on moral development, psychologists came up with many perspectives while determining the moral development of a child: peer relation in and outside of school, socio-economic situation, and family relations seem to be the most obvious ones. On the other hand, things that we can perceive with our five senses can also highly influence our behavior regarding environmental factors. In my essay, I will explain how environmental and social factors affect the development of moral behavior in children with the help of empirical data gained from related studies.
Developmental psychologists examined moral development by taking different approaches such as psychoanalytic, cognitive, social learning theories along with Damon’s view of morality. The founder of psychoanalysis, Freud, believed that there is a conflict between the needs of society and the individual. He supported this theory by suggesting moral development occurring when the values of socialization replace one’s selfish desires. B.F Skinner had also identical approach with Freud and examined how morality may develop by socialization. Skinner focused on the idea that moral development is the product of external sources, and did researches related to reinforcement. On the other hand, Piaget studied the construction of morality from a social-cognitive and emotional perspective. He divided cognitive development into four stages which are sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational. In his studies Piaget focussed at how children born with egocentrism and how they pass the egocentric situation by going through stages. Additionally, he focused on two related terms which are assimilation and accommodation. (ACIKLAMA) Furthermore, again with the cognitive approach, Kohlberg divided the understanding of morality in the whole lifespan to a systematic three-level, six-stage sequence. He experimented 72 boys from Chicago at the age of 10-16 and has done three-yearly intervals for 20 years to 58 of them. Each boy has been interviewed 2 hours based on ten dilemmas. The thing Kohlberg looked at was not the right and wrong decisions made; he looked at their reasoning towards the dilemmas and concluded that people can only pass the moral levels according to timings in his theory. There were some children who were not able to pass some stages. Social learning theorists believed that certain children acts are based on how they observe and perceive the people around them; mostly their parents, friends and teachers at school. They support that all types of behaviour they present is related with either reinforcement or modeled over time with social interactions. One other psychologist who had done experiments in the related topic was Damon. He believed that moral development occurs in children by observation, imitation and reward; he supported that sense of psychological needs, altruism and human relationships and justice reasoning go through three different levels. Damon believed that in certain parts of life the way people think about these concepts change and they form moral or non-moral behaviour accordingly. https://www.simplypsychology.org/kohlberg.html https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/435926
As aforementioned, environmental factors such as school play a significant role in shaping one’s morality. By morality, according to Gewirth (1978), we mean “a set of categorically obligatory requirements for action for which compliance is mandatory regardless of institutional norms, laws, or etiquette,” and environment can be described as anything that is not genetic.(Opara, 2004) It can be physical or psychological. The physical environment deals with the material aspect like homes, schools, community and significant others such as parents, peers, siblings.The environmentalist argues that a child is not born a genius, lazy, and criminal but it is the environment that makes him to be so (Lahey, 2004).
Since children spend a huge amount of time in school they affect and get affected by social interactions. Every school has a different culture full of unwritten norms and different environmental factors that builds up children’s understanding of morality. Teachers are mostly the first adults rather than parents that children encounter. Children spend huge amount of time in school that’s why they interact with loads of different kind of moral and anti-social people. School should have a positive atmosphere which students are influenced to norms and cultures that makes students feel comfortable,safe and positive about taking help when they are in need; by creating such atmosphere children will be morally developed in school. Since the environment in school is not insightful as the environment at home some values that are taught by parents can be rejected. In school children feel more like an individual and sees the outcome of their actions in a clear way.Children always look for friends that are suitable for them and act in order to achieve it. School can be sometimes tough for the different ones; that’s why children mostly acts in order to get accepted by their peers which is another factor that shapes behaviour in school.
Throughout many years, psychologists have found a variety of social factors that influence moral behavior with the help of experiments. Moral behaviour focuses on the student’s ability to differentiate between good and bad as they grow in their different cultural settings. Since culture is directly linked to social interactions, they concluded that the most obvious factors that shape moral behavior are peer-relations and interactions with family. Parents always want their kids to have a sense of justice and act according to social norms. Studies show that to achieve such a thing parents should be careful about how they act in front of their kids. parents’ sense of punishment, reinforcement and both direct and indirect teaching abilities highly influence how their kids think and act towards certain circumstances. The way parents act can also lead to certain psychological and mental problems in the future. According to the ‘longitudinal cross-lag twin’ study made by Catherine Tuvblad, Serena Bezdijan and Adrian Raine, and Laura Baker showed that unapproved parenting styles like neglecting, abusing and poorly supervising children can lead to aggression, minor crimes and conduct problems in the future. The effects of negative parent-child relationships are studied among 1562 twins. Two waves of assessment have been assigned to kids at age 9-10 and 14-15 which includes both children and caregivers’ reports; the experiment concluded that such negative influence which stated earlier results in anti-social behaviors such as psychopathy in 5 to 4 years.
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