Inductive discipline, parental expression of disappointed expectations, and moral identity in adolescence

J Youth Adolesc. 2012 Aug;41(8):973-83. doi: 10.1007/s10964-011-9698-7. Epub 2011 Jul 29.


Within the fields of socialization and moral development, the relationship of parenting to adolescents' sense of morality and self has been understudied. This study investigated the relationships between perceived parental disciplinary techniques and moral identity among early and middle adolescents. Participants included 93 (54% female) 5th, 8th and 10th graders, as well as their mothers. Students completed self-report measures concerning their mothers' disciplinary techniques and moral self-concept; mothers reported specifically on parental discipline frequency. The parental discipline measure was structured in terms of Hoffman's typology of induction, love withdrawal, and power assertion. Adolescents reported the frequency of their mothers' disciplinary techniques, as well as their perceptions (fairness or appropriateness evaluations, emotional reactions) concerning their mothers' most frequently used technique. Parental induction (orienting the transgressor to the plight of the victim) and expression of disappointed expectations were viewed as more appropriate and responded to with more positive emotion and guilt relative to other disciplinary techniques (e.g., power assertion). In addition, parental use of inductive discipline (including parental disappointment) during the adolescent years related to higher moral identity, defined in terms of the ascription of specifically moral (e.g., fair, kind) over non-moral (e.g., athletic, smart) qualities to the self. In contrast, love withdrawal and power assertion did not relate to moral identity. The findings suggest that parental expression of disappointed expectations, especially when perceived favorably, plays an important role in the formation of moral identity during the adolescent years.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Rearing / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations
  • Love*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Moral Development
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Rejection, Psychology
  • Social Perception
  • United States