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Child Dev. 1991 Dec;62(6):1379-92.

Socialization and temperament in the development of guilt and conscience.

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Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242.


Toddlerhood antecedents of conscience were examined in 58 8-10-year-old children. The measures of conscience, such as general affective/moral orientation, the extent of reparation, and the intensity of guilt feelings, were assessed from children's narratives produced in response to semiprojective stories involving transgressions, distress, and conflict. Maternal endorsed socialization orientations and observed rearing behaviors that deemphasized the use of power were associated with the children's internalized conscience 6 years later. However, these findings were significant only for children who were relatively prone to fearful arousal. The capacity for self-regulation, indexed by early compliance and noncompliance to maternal socialization, predicted children's internalized conscience 6 years later. There was preliminary evidence that compliance obtained in a rearing context that deemphasized power assertion was most conducive to the development of conscience. The findings are discussed in view of the interplay of socialization and temperament in moral development.

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