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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 52 (2010) 7, 433 - 443

New research

Conscience development: a review of theory and research

W. Stapert


background Recent findings in the neurosciences have rekindled interest in disorders of conscience development. Most of the publications on this subject refer to existing theories about conscience development. But the question is whether these theories are adequate.
To review the theories that are currently available and that readily lend themselves todiscussion among psychiatrists.
The literature was searched for theories on conscience development and those selected were discussed and compared.
Nine theories were analysed. Recent theories stress that satisfactory conscience development is strongly influenced by emotional attunement in relationships, developed from inborn motives and capacities. These theories differ markedly from the classical theories which focused on restriction and control.
The new approaches can bring new insights into both the normal and the deviant development of conscience and thereby make a contribution to clinical practice.

keywords conscience development, moral development