Prosocial and Moral Development in the Family

  • Nancy Eisenberg
Part of the Issues in Children’s and Families’ Lives book series (IICL, volume 5)


People are not born moral or immoral. Normal children have the capacity to develop empathy and positive behaviors such as helping and sharing, as well negative behaviors such as stealing and aggression. But how do children become moral individuals? Evidence suggests that heredity plays some role in the development of moral behavior in children. Researchers have found that identical twins are more similar to one another in their empathy and prosocial behavior than are fraternal twins (see review in Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). It is likely that aspects of children’s temperament that are heritable (e.g., their tendencies to experience emotions such as sadness and anger and their ability to regulate their emotions and related behavior) provide an avenue through which genetics affect children’s moral behavior. In addition, children’s temperaments affect how their parents interact with and attempt to socialize them. Thus, it is likely that children’s genetic inheritances affect their moral development in multiple ways. Nonetheless, it appears that socialization within the family is an important contributor to children’s moral development.


Moral Judgment Prosocial Behavior Moral Reasoning Moral Development Physical Punishment 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

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  • Nancy Eisenberg

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