How Parents Influence Early Moral Development

A new study finds that the key to raising moral kids lies with the parents’ sense of empathy and injustice.

Parents: Do you want to raise a child with a strong sense of right and wrong? You might want to start by cultivating your own morality—as well as your own empathy.

A new study from the University of Chicago suggests that parents’ sensitivity to both other people’s feelings and to injustice may influence early moral development in their children.

Developmental neuroscientist Jean Decety and his colleague, Jason Cowell, brought a group of one year olds into the lab to test them on their reactions to moral situations. The seventy-three toddlers watched animated videos in which characters engaged in helping and sharing (prosocial) behaviors or pushing, tripping, and shoving (antisocial) behaviors while the researchers monitored the toddlers’ eye movements and measured their brain wave patterns using an electroencephalogram, or EEG.

By Jill Suttie