The Self, Emotional and Moral Development
Let’s see what are the self, emotional and moral development are. The Self development is the growth or improvement of one’s qualities and abilities. Emotional development is a gradual increase in the capacity to experience, express, and interpret the full range of emotions and in the ability to cope with them appropriately. And the Moral development is the gradual formation of an individual’s concepts of right and wrong, conscience, ethical and religious values, social attitudes, and behavior.
Although the most preschool-age children does not explicitly pose question “Who am I?”. It underlies a considerable amount of development during the preschool years. During this period, children wonder about the nature of the self, and the way they answer the “Who am I?” question may affect them for the rest of their lives.
Self-Concept in the Preschool Years: Thinking about the Self
If you ask preschool-age children to specify what makes them different from other kids?. They readily respond with answers like “I’m a good runner” or “I like to color” or “I’m a big girl”. Such answers relate to self-concept that is a person’s identity, or set of beliefs about what one is like as an individual. (Brown, 1998; Marsh, Ellis, & Craven, 2002; Bhargava, 2014).
The statements that describe children’s self-concepts are not necessarily accurate. In fact, preschool children typically overestimate their skills and knowledge across all domains of expertise. Consequently, they expect to win the next game they play, to beat all opponents in an upcoming race, to write great stories when they grow up. Even when they have just experienced failure at a task, they are likely to expect to do well in the future.
Preschool-age children’s view of themselves also reflects the way their particular culture considers the self. For example, many Asian societies tend to have a collectivistic orientation, promoting the notion of interdependence. People in such cultures tend to regard themselves as parts of a larger interconnected social network and are responsible to others. In contrast, children in Western cultures are more likely to develop a view of the self. They reflecting an individualistic orientation that emphasizes personal identity and the uniqueness of the individual.
Related: The development of self in a child
Moral development refers to changes in people’s sense of justic, of what is right and wrong, and in their behavior related to moral issues. Developmentalists have considered moral development in terms of children’s reasoning about morality, their attitudes toward moral lapses, and their behavior when faced with moral issues.
Piaget’s View of Moral Development.
Jean Piaget suggested that moral development, like cognitive development, proceeds in stages (Piaget, 1932). The earliest stage is a broad form of moral thinking he called heteronomous morality, in which rules are seen as invariant and unchangeable. During this stage, which lasts from about age four through age seven. Children play games rigidly, assuming that there is one, and only one, way to play and that every other way is wrong.
At the same time, though, preschool-age children may not even fully grasp game rules. Consequently, a group of children may be playing together, with each child playing according to a slightly different set of rules. Nevertheless, they enjoy playing with others. Piaget suggests that every child may “win” such a game because winning is equated with having a good time, as opposed to truly competing with others.
This rigid heteronomous morality is ultimately replaced by two later stages of morality: incipient cooperation and autonomous cooperation. As its name implies, in the incipient cooperation stage. It lasts from around age 7 to age 10, children’s games become more clearly social.
It is not until the autonomous cooperation stage, which begins at about age 10. Children become fully aware that formal game rules can be modified if the people who play them agree.
Early in the preschool years, children refer to causes, consequences, and behavioral signs of emotion (Thompson, Winer, & Goodvin, 2011). Over time, their understanding becomes more accurate and complex. By age 4 to 5, children correctly judge the causes of many basic emotions. Preschoolers’ explanations tend to emphasize external factors over internal states, a balance that changes with age.
Knowledge about emotion helps children in their efforts to get along with others. As early as 3 to 5 years of age, it is related to friendly, considerate behavior, constructive responses to disputes with agemates, and perspective-taking ability (Garner & Estep, 2001; Hughes & Ensor, 2010; O’Brien et al., 2011).
Empathy and Moral Behavior.
Empathy is the understanding of what another individual feels. According to some developmentalists, empathy lies at the heart of moral behavior. The roots of empathy grow early. One-year-old infants cry when they hear other infants crying. By ages two and three, toddlers will offer gifts and spontaneously share toys with other children and adults, even if they are strangers (Zahn-Wexler & Radke-Yarrow, 1990).
During the preschool years, empathy continues to grow as children’s ability to monitor. And regulate their emotional and cognitive responses increases. Some theorists believe that increasing empathy as well as other positive emotions, such as sympathy and admiration—leads children to behave in a more moral fashion.
In addition, some negative emotions, such as anger at an unfair situation or shame over previous transgressions, also may promote moral behavior (Decety & Jackson, 2006; Bischof-Köhler, 2012; Eisenberg, Spinrad, & Morris, 2014).
Aggression and Violence in Preschoolers: Sources and Consequences
Aggression among preschoolers is quite common, though attacks such as this are not.
The potential for verbal hostility, shoving matches, kicking, and other forms of aggression is present throughout the preschool period, although the acted out degree of aggression changes as children become older.
Aggression is intentional injury or harm to another person. Infants don’t act aggressively. It is hard to contend that their behavior is intended to hurt others, even if they inadvertently manage to do so. In contrast, by the time they reach preschool age, children demonstrate true aggression.
Throughout the preschool years, children become better at controlling the emotions that they are experiencing. Emotional self-regulation is the capability to adjust emotions to a desired state and level of intensity. Starting at age two, children are able to talk about their feelings, and they engage in strategies to regulate them. As they get older, they develop more effective strategies, learning to better cope with negative emotions.
Three-year-old who can distract themselves when upset and focus on how to handle their feelings tend to become cooperative school-age children with few problem behaviors (Gilliom et al., 2002). By watching parents manage emotion, children learn strategies for regulating their own. Parents who are in tune with their own emotional experiences tend to be supportive with their preschoolers, offering suggestions and explanations of emotion-regulation strategies that strengthen children’s capacity to handle stress.
As their self-concepts develop, preschoolers become increasingly sensitive to praise and blame or to the possibility of such feedback. They more often experience self-conscious emotions—feelings that involve injury to or enhancement of their sense of self.
By age 3, self-conscious emotions are clearly linked to self-evaluation. But because preschoolers are still developing standards of excellence and conduct, they depend on the messages of parents, teachers, and others who matter to them to know when to feel proud, ashamed, or guilty, often viewing adult expectations as obligatory rules.
- Robert. S. Feldman. (2017). Development Across the Lifespan. (8th ed.). Pearson Education.
- Laura. E. Berk. (2018). Development Through the Lifespan (7th ed.). Pearson Education.