1aDepartment of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia bUniversity of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW:
The review critically evaluates recent claims that infants have innate knowledge of morality and examines the sources of moral norms.
Many studies show that toddlers readily help adults with daily tasks. A more contentious set of studies suggests that young infants prefer actors who help others to those who hinder them. Some researchers have interpreted these findings as indicating that morality is innately present in humans. Others look to alternative explanations in developmental systems theory.
Explaining the emergence of morality as innate, or wholly socialized, is problematic; instead morality could emerge in a developmental system in which children's early capacities are shaped by interpersonal engagement. Children's improving ability to coordinate with others at a practical level is later transformed through language and reflective thought, as children gain the ability to talk about what was previously implicit in interaction. Throughout, parents and caregivers have many opportunities to foster children's moral development in daily interactions.