Thursday, August 27, 2009
Guilt and atonement in child development.
Tierney does an interesting piece on work by Kochanska and colleagues showing how guilt in children, which usually appears during their second year, develops along side effortful self-control to inhibit impulsive behaviors that might hurt themselves or others. A deficit in either can be compensated by increased strength of the other, but a deficit in both guilt behavior and self-control increases the probability of sociopathic behaviors. To prevent guilt over a particular bad event from generalizing into shame (which has repeatedly been found to be unhealthy, as in "I'm a bad person"), it is important to have some sort of atonement process to round off the process. The article gives interesting examples of this process.