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Communication Begins with Children

A Lifespan Communication Sourcebook


Edited By Thomas J. Socha and Narissra Maria Punyanunt-Carter

Communication Begins with Children: A Lifespan Communication Sourcebook seeks to transform the field of communication, arguing that the field must stop neglecting and segregating children and instead adopt an age-inclusive lifespan approach that fully includes and fully considers children in all communication theorizing, research, and education from infancy and throughout the human lifespan. One-size-fits-all, adult-centric communication theorizing, researching, and educating is inadequate and harms the communication field’s potential as a social force for positive change for all communicators. The volume contains four sections (Foundations, Relational Communication Development, Digital Communication Development, and Navigating Developmental Communication Challenges) that showcase state-of-the-art chapters about the history of children’s relational and digital communication studies, methods used to study children’s communication, media literacy development, communication and children’s health, and much more. A must read for all communication researchers, educators, and students and an important addition to advanced and graduate level human and digital communication courses.

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6. Communication and Children’s Moral Development: PAULA S. TOMPKINS



St. Cloud State University

This chapter outlines an intersection between philosophical theories of ethics and communication ethics in examining the moral development of children.1 Study of ethics in human communication focuses primarily on adults (e.g., Cheney, May & Munshi, 2011). Similarly, communication is understudied in child development in its focus on biological and cognitive development, language acquisition, and social development, often through research of deficiencies (e.g., Kagan, 2013). How infants, children and adolescents develop as communicators—how they grow as speakers, listeners, turn takers or collaborators—has not been a significant focus of study (e.g., Miller-Day, Pezalla & Chesnut, 2013; Socha & Yingling, 2010). Scholarly interest in communication across the lifespan, such as Socha and Eller’s ecological model of lifespan communication (2015), brings into focus the importance of studying the communication of children and adolescents for understanding human communication (e.g., Soliz & Rittenour, 2015; Waldron et al., 2015). This chapter offers an initial exploration of how infants and children develop as ethically responsive communicators. Communication ethics is conceptualized here as a practice or practical philosophy (Toulmin, 1988, 2001), rather than an application of philosophical theories of ethics in human communication (Ballard et al., 2014). As a practice, communication ethics asks how do you ethically discern or judge, as well as whether, what, or how you act as an ethically responsive communicator.

Beginning with a new developmental stage called “extended adolescence” or “emerging adulthood” (Arnett, 2006), this chapter will examine...

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