The Relations of Parental Affect and Encouragement to Children's Moral Emotions and Behaviour

Journal of Moral Education 28 (3):323-337 (1999)


Although researchers have been concerned with the effects of parental socialisation on children's outcomes, there has been surprisingly little work on the socialisation of children's moral emotions and behaviour. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of observed parental affect and encouragement in children's empathy-related responding and moral behaviour (i.e. cheating). Moreover, the moderating influence of children's characteristics (i.e. sex) on this relationship was investigated. Ninety-seven girls and 119 boys (mean age = 73 months) with a parent participated in the study. Children completed a dispositional sympathy and empathy questionnaire and were observed in a resistance-to-temptation task. Further, parents' affect and encouragement were assessed during two parent-child interactive situations. Results indicated that parents' positive affect and encouragement were positively related to children's sympathy. In contrast, parents' interactive style was not related to children's empathy. In terms of children's moral behaviour, findings revealed that parental interactive style was related to boys' but not girls' cheating on a puzzle task. These findings offer support for the notion that parental practices involving emotion contribute to children's moral development

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