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Wolfenstein, M. (1950). Some Variants in Moral Training of Children. Psychoanal. St. Child, 5:310-328.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 5:310-328

Some Variants in Moral Training of Children

Martha Wolfenstein

This paper will present some hypotheses suggested by the findings of a recent research project. The statements which follow are not assumed to have been proved, but are put forward as useful hypotheses for further investigation. The data which suggested these hypotheses were mainly provided by interviews with parents and children of various backgrounds about their moral ideas. I have attempted to formulate possible interconnections among these conscious moral ideas as well as relations between these ideas and less conscious feelings.

In discussing various moral ideas, I shall speak of Czech parents and children, Chinese parents and children, and parents and children of other cultural origins. It is not assumed that any of the psychological relations discussed here is peculiar to one particular culture. Rather it is taken for granted that any of these psychological possibilities may occur in individuals in any cultural setting. These hypotheses are thus applicable to individual case material and should be further verified in such material.

Parents usually do not begin to apply conscious moral conceptions and disciplinary techniques to their children from the moment of birth. An interval of varying length elapses before the conscious moral code of the parents and its sanctions are applied. Speculations about very early experiences of the infant have suggested that he may feel every deprivation imposed by the mother as a punishment for his destructive impulses. It is equally possible to assume that this is a retrospective transformation of early impressions in conformity with later experiences.

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