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Psychophysiology. 2000 Nov;37(6):788-95.

Temperament as a moderator of pathways to conscience in children: the contribution of electrodermal activity.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242, USA.


A longitudinal study (G. K. Kochanska, 1997) showed that temperamental fearfulness, assessed at toddler age via observational data and maternal ratings, moderated pathways to internalized conscience at age 4. For fearful children, maternal gentle discipline deemphasizing power predicted conscience development; for fearless children, attachment security predicted conscience development. Electrodermal reactivity assessed at age 4 on the same children was used as a physiological reflection of fearful temperament and was substituted for the earlier fearfulness measure to test the theoretical model. As expected, for electrodermally reactive children, maternal gentle discipline predicted conscience, whereas for nonreactive children, attachment security predicted conscience. The findings support the notions of (a) electrodermal reactivity at an early age as a correlate of temperament, (b) temperament as a moderator of socialization in early moral development, and (c) lovelessness in psychopathic individuals as an index of the failure of the alternative pathway (via attachment) to conscience in fearless children.

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