Beyond Cognition: Expanding the Search for the Early Roots of Internalization and Conscience

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Abstract

J. E. Grusec and J. J. Goodnow (1994) offered a new comprehensive reformulation of discipline encounters as context for children's internalization of parental values. They focused mainly on children's social information processing and how it affects perception and acceptance of parental messages. The model seems best suited for middle childhood and adolescence. This commentary suggests additional directions in research on internalization in early childhood. It is argued that processes such as social referencing, sensitivity to standard violations, emergence of self, emotional reactions to wrongdoing, early self-conscious emotions, and self-regulation may be important antecedents and signs of internalization in the first 3 years of life. The proposed shift from cognitive to affective and self-regulatory aspects of early conscience reveals children's temperament as an important but neglected contributor to early moral development.

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