The Fourth North American Conference on the Family & Corrections

MORAL DEVELOPMENT AND ATTACHMENT: DISRUPTIONS THAT CREATE CYCLES OF CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

Ann Adalist-Estrin

Incarcerated Parents and Their Child, 213 Fernbrook Ave., Wyncote, PA, 19046 (215) 576-7961

Il existe de nombreuses theories sur le developpement moral mais, selon la plupart d’entre elles, la moralite consiste a passer des tendances egocentriques a un code moral base sur une perception equilibree de soi et d’autrui.

Ce document presente un examen des quatre sentiments fondamentaux selon Jerome Kagan: empathie, culpabilite, honte et anxiete provoques par les violations des normes par autrui, dans le contexte du developpement et des relations entre les detenus et leurs enfants. En outre le role des liens affectifs dans l’evolution de ces quatre sentiments fondamentaux y est examine. On souligne egalement l’importance de la famille du detenu dans le maintien et le developpement de rapports normaux.

“Meme si la capacite de se conduire moralement avec le sentiment de sa propre competence ne s’est pas developpe initialement, la famille du delinquant devient le milieu privilegie ou cela peut se produire. Si la reussite de la liberation conditionnelle depend du jugement moral de l’individu et que la moralite depend des rapports affectifs, nous devons nous concentrer sur l’etablissement, le maintien et le renforcement des liens familiaux pendant toute la periode d’incarceration.”

De tels efforts peuvent etre efficaces et permettre de reduire la recidive et d’intervenir dans un cycle de plus en plus important de criminalite intergenerationnelle.

Whether there are universal moral principles or whether moral imperatives are contextual within cultures has been debated by philosophers across disciplines for centuries. As has the nature -nurture controversy with equal numbers of researchers, sociologists and psychologists in both nativist and environmentalist camps.

My operant definition of morality for purposes of this paper is that of a complex process that transforms a child’s inherent pro-social and anti-social conflicts into a moral perspective complete with complicated systems of judgments and actions.(Damon, 1988)

There are many varied theories of moral development, Kohlberg, Piaget, and Gilligan to name a few. They are diverse in scope and perspective, but in all there are commonalities related to the fundamental perspective that morality emerges as a dynamic process that begins with egocentric impulses (actions without thought) and leads to egocentric interpretations (“that’s not fair!”). Then comes the avoidance of punishment (“the gorilla did it”) which evolves from the child’s true belief that “if I don’t get caught, I didn’t do wrong.” The evolutionary process continues with the development of the ability to measure impulse against the perceptions of others responses or expectations (“Mom will be mad”) leading to the establishment of sets of rules. These rules include self and other perspectives (“in that situation I thought it was ok because he didn’t get upset last time”). Finally, an overall moral code emerges that allows the child/person to make behavioral choices based on a balanced perception of self and other.

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