Compliance and the Rudiments of Conscience

  • Hugh Lytton


The process whereby the child acquires control over his own behavior so that it conforms to the requirements of his society, irrespective of the presence of an external agent of authority, is sometimes considered synonymous with socialization, though this may be taking an unduly narrow view of this process. Be this as it may, the development of internalized controls, together with the development of attachment and of independence, form a trinity of processes central to early child-parent relations. Hence, there exists a considerable body of literature dealing with the development of internalized controls, or “conscience,” in the child. This literature has its theoretical origins in the psychoanalytic school, and we owe the empirical studies in this area mainly to workers who have derived testable propositions from psychoanalytic postulates and cast them in an experimental mold. These historical roots partly account for the emphasis on the internalization of controls, that is, the development of self-inhibition in the absence of external restraint. The latter topic is, however, important also for anyone who considers the establishment of an autonomous, self-regulating conscience a desirable goal of development. Investigators holding the view that this process must, in part, be a product of environmental forces have related it to specific parental child-rearing practices as well as to parents’ attitudes, or the “climate,” of the home.


Repeated Direction Neutral Action Negative Action Verbal Control Physical Punishment 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hugh Lytton
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of CalgaryCanada

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