Conscience development

Psychologists recognize that many factors contribute to the development of conscience: parents and home life, playmates and schoolmates, teachers, neighborhood, religion, as well as intellectual capacity. One of these, however, is outstanding, and that is the family. For this reason a number of investigators have attempted to determine what kind of family and what kind of child-rearing practices are most likely to foster a well-developed conscience. First, a widely accepted study by Sears, Mac- coby, and Levin (1957) has shown that, on the whole, psychological and love- oriented techniques, such as praise or isolation of the child, are more effective than the materialistic or physical approach which stresses tangible rewards, deprivation, and physical punishment. Second, consistency and the combination of mutual trust and approval are extremely influential in conscience development. The child must know what is expected of him and must feel that his parents have faith in him and accept him even when they are rejecting his behavior. But third, a warm and loving relationship between parents and child is most essential, for it creates the kind of atmosphere that encourages the adoption of high standards of character and conduct.Religious influences. The effects of church attendance and religious training are extremely hard to assess. Although it seems reasonable to suppose that contact with moral precepts, spiritual values, and religious sanctions would have a positive effect on character development, the few psychological investigations so far conducted have not offered direct and conclusive proof. In fact, as Jersild (1960) has pointed out, “Such studies do not, on the whole, show that youngsters who regularly receive religious instruction are significantly more honest or humane than those who do not.” The Hartshome and May study showed that children who regularly attended Sunday school cheated only slightly less than children who did not. Other research has indicated that people who were involved in church activities or whose parents had favorable attitudes toward religion tend to be more negative toward Negroes (Kelly et al.,1958),more anti-Semitic (Wilson, 1960), and more authoritarian in social attitudes (Jones, 1954) than people who were not associated with religious institutions. The implication is that membership in their own institution makes them more rigid and intolerant of nonmembers. On the other hand, studies show that most delinquents either have never attended Sunday school or have attended a school that stressed punishment after death (Watterberg, 1954), and there is evidence that good religious instruction leads to internal controls over conduct (Jones, 1954). The limited nature of these findings points up the need for more extensive and systematic investigations.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "Conscience development," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/conscience-development/ (accessed October 15, 2021).
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