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date: 14 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Attachment theory has provided a seminal orientation to understanding the early development of parent-child relationships and their enduring influence. Is attachment theory also a moral development theory? This chapter examines research on the association of secure attachment with morally relevant behaviors and dispositions. This review reveals that secure attachment is associated with greater social problem-solving skills and conflict avoidance with peers, enhanced emotion understanding and empathy, and more advanced conscience development, and there is limited evidence that it is also associated with prosocial behavior. Moreover, parental sensitivity and responsiveness are associated not only with secure attachment, but also with conscience development, empathy, prosocial motivation, and distress upon wrongdoing. In addition, findings suggest that secure attachment is associated with characteristics of parenting that are likely to contribute to an early developing premoral sensibility. Although attachment theory does not provide a comprehensive account of how secure attachment contributes to morally relevant conduct, it offers a perspective on moral development that is important to the field. The chapter concludes with an outline of what an attachment perspective to early moral development might look like.

Keywords: attachment, security, parent-child relationships, parental sensitivity, premoral sensibility, conscience, emotion understanding, empathy, prosocial behavior

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