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We can also find a link to the foundational elements discussed above. In their classic study of rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe, entitled The Altruistic Personality , Samuel and Pearl Oliner argued that the rescuers were motivated by strong values of care and inclusiveness which were in large part transmitted to them by their parents through the formation of an early attachment bond, a bond which "shapes personality and becomes the prototype for all subsequent relationships" p.

Furthermore, Eisenberg and Mussen contend that altruism is linked to moral reasoning, an aspect of morality that shall be discussed shortly. Parenting is an important determinant of altruism. Eisenberg and Mussen conclude that parents of altruistic children are nurturant and supportive, model altruism, highlight the effects of actions on others, use induction, establish clear expectations for mature behavior, and create opportunities for their children to manifest responsibility for others.

Research also shows that parents of altruistic children tend to moralize, i. As noted above, Oliner and Oliner found that WWII rescuers were motivated by "values learned from their parents which prompted and sustained their involvement" p. While there are a number of models of the development of moral reasoning, most research on the relation of parenting to moral reasoning development has relied predominantly on Kohlberg's theory. This section will describe the Kohlberg model and summarize findings related to parenting and Kohlbergian moral reasoning development, but will include findings about the relation of parenting to some of the other models of moral reasoning development.

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Kohlberg has identified an invariant sequence of six stages of reasoning about morality; i. Ironically, the effects of parenting on the development of Kohlbergian moral reasoning were largely ignored for decades. This was due in part to the Piagetian thesis that parents tended to be authoritarian and therefore suppress moral reasoning development, whereas peers were seen to be more egalitarian and therefore fostered moral reasoning development. Fortunately, researchers eventually questioned or ignored this position Holstein, ; Lickona, ; Parikh, ; Speicher, ; Speicher-Dubin, whereas other researchers had studied this with outcome variables other than Kohlberg stage e.

Hence a substantial body of literature exists see Speicher, , for a review. Most research has focused on three principal parent variables, parental stage of moral reasoning, parental discipline style, and family communication patterns, but only the latter two appear to account for most of the development of moral reasoning in children.

Baumrind and others e. Baumrind has described three predominant parenting styles. Authoritarian parents are highly controlling and demanding but affectively cold and hostile and generally uncommunicative. Permissive parents tend to be loving and communicative but wield little control and set few demands for mature behavior. More recently Baumrind, , Permissive parenting has been differentiated into the more classically warm laissez faire style and the more distant neglectful style; however, the research being reviewed here pre-dates this differentiation.

Authoritative parents are loving, controlling, communicative, and set high maturity demands for their children. It is those parents whom researchers have found to produce the most positive child characteristics, including higher moral functioning.

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Only a few studies have directly examined the relation of parenting style to moral reasoning development; however, numerous studies have examined component variables that comprise distinct parenting styles. Three studies have directly examined the relation of parenting style to moral reasoning development.

Pratt and Diessner reported that adolescent moral reasoning is predicted positively by Authoritative parenting style and negatively by Permissive parenting style. Boyes and Allen reported similar results while employing different methods of assessing both moral reasoning and parenting style. They found the highest levels of moral reasoning in college students with Authoritative parents and lowest with Authoritarian parents. Berkowitz, et al. Finally, research has demonstrated that parents at higher stages of moral reasoning tend to use more Induction and other Authoritative parenting elements Parikh, Hence, it appears that a pattern of Authoritative parenting, especially with its focus on open supportive communication, is nurturing of children's moral reasoning development.

There is a second way in which family communication has been studied in the development of children's moral reasoning capacities. Numerous investigators have examined the nature of family discussions of moral issues both real and hypothetical and their relation to children's moral reasoning development.

There are two types of such studies: those that use family discussions as interventions intended to stimulate children's moral reasoning development and those that simply analyze family discussions and look for relations to children's levels of moral reasoning. Two intervention studies have been identified. Grimes reviewed in Higgins, found significantly greater moral reasoning development when mothers were included in moral discussion with their children than in a traditional classroom moral discussion intervention.

Stanley noted that the only successful parent training group was composed of parents with their adolescent children. Furthermore, only those parents showed a parallel decrease in authoritarian decision-making in family discussions. Transactive discussion, a form of discussion originally identified in adolescent peer moral dilemma discussions, consists of speech acts in which the speaker re-presents e. Powers reported that parental transaction was weakly related to adolescent moral reasoning.

The greatest moral development was found in families that were supportive of their children in the discussions and shared perspectives. Walker and Taylor found that children's moral reasoning development was best predicted by three features of parent-child moral discussions: "Socratic" questioning, affective support, presentations of moral reasoning above the child's stage. The authors also note that it was the discussion of real family dilemmas and discussions with "re-presentational" transaction that were the richest developmentally.

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As demonstrated in the review above, research investigating parental influences on children's moral development consistently identifies a set of processes that relate reliably to moral thought, feeling, and action in children. Within this set can be identified a short list of five parenting processes that relate to two or more of the eight components of moral psychology featured in the preceding discussion. Parents' use of induction , expression of nurturance and support , use of demandingess and limit setting , modeling of socio-moral behavior, and implemention of a democratic open family discussion and conflict resolution style are each positively related to two or more of the fundamental "building blocks" of morality described above see Table One.

Thus, by focusing on a relatively small number of parenting dimensions, parents can play a significant role in shaping the moral development of their children.


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Below we discuss each of these dimensions and provide practical recommendations for helping parents become more effective moral educators for a more extensive and less technical treatment of this issue, see Lickona, Perhaps the single most powerful parental influence on children's moral development is induction. Explaining parental behavior and its implications for the child and others is linked to greater empathy, more highly developed conscience, higher levels of moral reasoning, and altruism. Why should this rather simple process be so potent for shaping moral development?

Perhaps because it explicitly links the self and other, simultaneously stimulating children's understanding of the reasons for choosing one behavior over another and the impact of that behavior on another person. Thus, it directly addresses and connects the cognitive moral reasoning and affective empathy aspects of moral functioning, and helps children to internalize standards for moral behavior. As Lickona points out, children "need to see us lead good lives, but they also need to know why we do it.

For our example to have maximum impact, they need to know the values and beliefs that lie behind it We teach, directly , by telling. We need to practice wheat we preach, but we also need to preach what we practice" p. It also spurs children's perspective-taking abilities by focusing on how others might feel or think in a given situation.

At the same time, induction models a rational, respectful approach to interpersonal relations. When parents take the time to explain their behavior to their children and show awareness of how that behavior affects the child, they implicitly acknowledge that the child's feelings and viewpoint are important and worthy of attention. Indeed, such respect for children is at the heart of both Damon's and Lickona's models of raising good children.

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Damon offers the principle of respectful engagement as the underlying model for moral parenting: "respond to the child's own experience without intruding upon this experience, while at the same time presenting the child with consistent expectations, guidelines, and mature insights clearly explained" p. Lickona argues that respect is the core of morality and parents need to nurture mutual respect in their relationships with their children: "one of the most basic ways to develop kids' respect for themselves and others is to respect them, and require respect in return Treating kids with respect means treating them like persons Treating kids like persons means trying to be fair with them" pp.

There are many opportunities to employ induction. One of the most obvious is in the context of discipline. When children disobey, parents have the opportunity to teach their children about what is right and wrong, and more importantly, why certain behaviors are preferable to others. Taking the time to go through this process will further the child's understanding of moral principles and consequently reduce the need for such interventions in the future. Of course, at times short-term goals such as stopping a particular behavior e. Nonetheless, talking through what happened with the child at a later time will help them better understand the moral implications of their behavior.

Induction need not take place only when discipline is required. Discussing the day's events also can involve a focus on the "whys" of behavior and their consequences for other people. Talking explicitly about why the child, parent, or some other person did something and how it affected other people can flow naturally out of everyday conversations and again make salient the rational and emotional aspects of behavior.

For example, parents can ask children why they think that their behavior say, refusing to share a toy led another child to cry, helping children come to the answer themselves. How parents can do this depends on the child's level of development; parents need to be cognizant of what children can understand and adjust their language accordingly. This is what Lickona , p. Preschoolers with more advanced perspective-taking skills can make the connection between not liking to get hurt themselves and their behavior toward other people.

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As children get older, engaging them in more sophisticated discussions about why some behaviors are preferable to others becomes feasible. Another element of parenting related to several core components of morality is Authoritative Parenting Baumrind, This style of parenting has been defined by the intersection of two parental tendencies: responsiveness and demandingness.

We will deal with them separately. Responsiveness is understood as the provision of nurturance and support. Establishing a warm, mutually positive basis for interaction promotes the development of conscience and moral reasoning in children. Moreover, it is linked to secure attachment and self-esteem, two of Berkowitz's meta-moral characteristics, and thus has effects that go beyond the province of moral development. One effect of warm and responsive parenting is communication of the idea that the child is valuable and worthy of such treatment. The kind of love that helps them develop a positive self-concept.


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A sense of their worth. A broader message is that people in general are deserving of respectful treatment, and therefore it is wrong to do something that is hurtful to another. Violation of this standard leads to guilt and shame, affects linked closely to conscience. It also provides a basis for moral reasoning: if people are worthy of humane treatment, what course of action is best in a given situation?

Even more than with induction, opportunities to express nurturance abound in parent-child relationships; in fact, the level of warmth and support is a pervasive quality of these relationships. One implication of this is that many interactions not related to the domain of moral functioning will affect children's development in this area.

However, the expression of support during interactions around moral issues may be especially important. For example, parents trying to challenge children to think through the moral consequences of some behavior will be more effective if they show support for and interest in the child's point of view and exhibit empathy for the child's feelings. In addition to providing a supportive platform for children to confront the moral implications of their or others' behavior, parents who take this approach also model concern for others, and so there may be indirect benefits as well.

As noted, the second component of Authoritative parenting is demandingness.