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Moral Talk Across the Lifespan

Creating Good Relationships


Edited By Vince Waldron and Douglas Kelley

Grounded in path-breaking research but written in an accessible, engaging style Moral Talk Across the Lifespan explores how our most fundamental moral commitments are shaped by crucial conversations with family members, romantic partners, and friends. Taking a lifespan approach, the authors demonstrate that moral growth is a continual process, one stimulated by transitions (e.g., leaving home for university) and disruptive events (serious illness). With chapters penned by leading relationship scholars, the volume contributes original thinking, data, and innovative theoretical pathways for researchers. For instructors it explores pressing moral questions encountered by students in their own relationships with romantic partners, friends, parents, and other family members. When is revealing a secret the right thing to do? Is revenge ever a worthy response to an insult or sleight? Why are young adults persuaded to accept some of their parents’ values but not others? Is there a right (or wrong) way to support a parent facing a terminal illness?
Moral Talk Across the Lifespan offers a stimulating blend of social science research and moral reflection. It is a key text for courses in Relational Communication, Family Communication, Interpersonal Communication, and Communication Ethics.
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Chapter One: Parent/Caregiver-Child Communication and Moral Development: Toward a Conceptual Foundation of an Ecological Model of Lifespan Communication and Good Relationships


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Parent/Caregiver-Child Communication AND Moral Development

Toward a Conceptual Foundation of an Ecological Model of Lifespan Communication and Good Relationships


Play nicely! “Stop fighting!” “Eat your vegetables!” “Do your homework!” “Clean your room!” “How would you feel, if she/he took your toy?” “Make good choices.” These are a just a few examples of the thousands of messages served up daily by parents and caregivers to children. At a foundational level, most of these kinds of messages are intended to halt children’s and adolescents’ undesired behaviors and redirect them toward more positive ones. But, simultaneously, whether direct (“What would Jesus do?”) or indirect (“What would be a nice thing to do here?”), these kinds of parental/caregiver messages also serve up lessons in morality—with sides of parental/caregiver power—intended to nourish children’s moral sensibilities, develop their consciences, raise their social consciousness, create moral selves, and more (for a review, see Thompson, 2012). Further, although these kinds of parental/caregiver messages may tend to figure prominently in episodes where parents/caregivers seek to “discipline” their offspring (Socha, 2006), they are actually a mainstay of the everyday discourse of parents and caregivers seeking to raise “good” children (Laible & Thompson, 2000).

Parental/caregiver communication with children is multi-purposed and multi-leveled, containing many kinds of lessons that can include furthering children’s communication education (Socha & Yingling, 2010), facilitating their moral development (Kochanska, Koenig, Barry, Kim,...

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