John Witte | Michael Welker | Stephen Pickard (Eds.): The Impact of the Family (Leseprobe)

The family is humanity’s oldest and most basic social institution, but today it is fragile, fractured, and fraught in many liberal lands. This volume gathers scholars from sociology, psychology, history, religion, ethics, law, and medicine from five continents to analyze the complex nature and place of the family in character formation and human flourishing. The chapters study the impact of catechesis, schooling, work, and discipline on the development of individual moral agency and responsibility. They document the critical roles of family love, trust, fidelity, and story-telling in shaping the moral character of all family members from infancy to old age. They describe effective strategies of resistance and resilience for family members who face abuse, divorce, death, chauvinism, racism, and homophobia. And several chapters challenge modern arguments and policies that aim to flatten if not abolish the marital family, even while they call for family law reforms.

The family is humanity’s oldest and most basic social institution, but today it is fragile, fractured, and fraught in many liberal lands. This volume gathers scholars from sociology, psychology, history, religion, ethics, law, and medicine from five continents to analyze the complex nature and place of the family in character formation and human flourishing. The chapters study the impact of catechesis, schooling, work, and discipline on the development of individual moral agency and responsibility. They document the critical roles of family love, trust, fidelity, and story-telling in shaping the moral character of all family members from infancy to old age. They describe effective strategies of resistance and resilience for family members who face abuse, divorce, death, chauvinism, racism, and homophobia. And several chapters challenge modern arguments and policies that aim to flatten if not abolish the marital family, even while they call for family law reforms.


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<strong>John</strong> <strong>Witte</strong>, Jr.<br />

<strong>Michael</strong> <strong>Welker</strong><br />

<strong>Stephen</strong> <strong>Pickard</strong><br />

(<strong>Eds</strong>.)<br />


<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> FAMILY<br />

on Character Formation, Ethical Education,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> Communication <strong>of</strong> Values<br />

in Late Modern Pluralistic Societies

Contents<br />

Acknowledgments ....................................... 9<br />

Preface to <strong>the</strong> Series ...................................... 11<br />

Part One: <strong>The</strong> Place <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> in Modern Society<br />

<strong>John</strong> <strong>Witte</strong> Jr.<br />

“It Takes aSociety to Raise a<strong>Family</strong>”: <strong>The</strong> Multidimensional<br />

<strong>Family</strong> Sphere ............................................ 17<br />

Robert N. Bellah<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Family</strong> in <strong>the</strong> Matrix <strong>of</strong> Habit and History ................ 43<br />

Part Two: <strong>The</strong> Role <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> in Child<br />

Development and Moral Character Formation<br />

Sabina Pauen<br />

<strong>The</strong> Beginnings <strong>of</strong> Norm and Value Formation in Human<br />

Ontogeny and <strong>the</strong> Role <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> ....................... 59<br />

Robyn Fivush<br />

<strong>Family</strong> Storytelling and <strong>the</strong> Communication <strong>of</strong> Values ......... 75<br />

Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore<br />

Children, Chores, and Character Formation: AChild-Centered<br />

Perspective .............................................. 89<br />

Marcia J. Bunge<br />

Communicating Values by Honoring Families and <strong>the</strong> Full<br />

Humanity <strong>of</strong> Children: Lessons from Robust <strong>The</strong>ologies and<br />

Detrimental Developments among Protestants ............... 105<br />

<strong>Stephen</strong> G. Post<br />

Love Begets Love, and It Starts in <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> ................. 127

6 Contents<br />

Margaret F. Brinig<br />

Imitation and Value Formation within <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> ............. 139<br />

Eugene C. Roehlkepartain<br />

Empty Vessels or Active Agents? Amplifying Young People’s<br />

Agency in Character Development in <strong>the</strong>ir Families ........... 147<br />

Andreas Kruse<br />

Old Age within <strong>the</strong> Polyphony <strong>of</strong> Sensations, Experiences, and<br />

Commitments in Favor <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Neighbor ..................... 163<br />

<strong>Michael</strong> J.Broyde<br />

“Hearts Will Never Be Practical until <strong>The</strong>y Can Be Made<br />

Unbreakable”: What Does Parental Love Really Mean in Hard<br />

Cases in <strong>the</strong> Jewish Tradition? ............................. 179<br />

Part Three: <strong>Family</strong> Changes and Challenges and <strong>The</strong>ir<br />

<strong>Impact</strong> on Character Formation<br />

Jean Bethke Elshtain<br />

<strong>The</strong> Heart <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Matter: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Family</strong> as <strong>the</strong> Site <strong>of</strong> Fundamental<br />

Ethical Struggle .......................................... 197<br />

Patrick Parkinson<br />

<strong>The</strong> Role <strong>of</strong> Public Policy in Supporting Safe, Stable, and<br />

Nurturing Families inLate Modern Societies ................. 211<br />

Gordon S. Mikoski<br />

“<strong>The</strong> Times <strong>The</strong>y Are A-Changin’”: Shifting Patterns <strong>of</strong><br />

Partnering and Parenting in <strong>the</strong> United States and Implications<br />

for Religious Transmission and <strong>The</strong>ology .................... 223<br />

Enola G. Aird<br />

Toward aRenaissance for <strong>the</strong> African American <strong>Family</strong>:<br />

Confronting <strong>the</strong> Lie <strong>of</strong> Black Inferiority ...................... 233<br />

<strong>Stephen</strong> L. Carter<br />

Religion, Education, and <strong>the</strong> Primacy <strong>of</strong><strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> ........... 247

Contents 7<br />

Patrick Hornbeck<br />

Religious Liberty and <strong>Family</strong> Diversity: <strong>The</strong> Legal and<br />

<strong>The</strong>ological Disputes ...................................... 255<br />

Helen Alvaré<br />

Equality Alongside Diversity to Build aStronger Union: <strong>The</strong><br />

Role <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> in <strong>the</strong> Melting Pot ....................... 275<br />

Katja Patzel-Mattern and Sabina Pauen<br />

<strong>Family</strong> Structures and Values in Postwar German Society ...... 291<br />

Nadia Marais<br />

“A Most Sacred Covenant”? <strong>John</strong> Calvin’s Rhetoric <strong>of</strong> Marriage<br />

and Its Implications for Transmitting Values in South Africa .... 313<br />

Thomas Xutong Qu<br />

ARenaissance <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Confucian <strong>Family</strong>? APreliminary<br />

Observation upon Current Discourses about <strong>Family</strong> in<br />

Contemporary China ...................................... 333<br />

Contributors ............................................. 345

Acknowledgments<br />

This volume was made possible by generousgrants from <strong>the</strong> Karl-Schlecht Foundation<br />

and <strong>the</strong> University <strong>of</strong> Heidelberg. We express our deep thanks to Pr<strong>of</strong>essor<br />

Karl Schlecht and <strong>the</strong> university administration.<br />

We thank Georgetown University Press and <strong>the</strong> Emory Center for <strong>the</strong> Study<br />

<strong>of</strong> Law and Religion for permission to repurpose portions <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> chapters by <strong>the</strong><br />

late Pr<strong>of</strong>essors Robert Bellah and Jean Bethke Elshtain, and to <strong>the</strong> Emory Law<br />

Journal and <strong>the</strong> Center for permission to include revised versions <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> chapters<br />

by Enola Aird and <strong>Stephen</strong> Carter.<br />

We are grateful to our colleagues at <strong>the</strong> Forschungszentrum Internationale<br />

und Interdisziplinäre <strong>The</strong>ologie (FIIT) in Heidelberg for <strong>the</strong>ir leadership <strong>of</strong> this<br />

volume and <strong>the</strong> broader project <strong>of</strong> which is it is part. Our deep thanks as well to<br />

Dr. Gary S. Hauk, senior editor, and Ms. Amy Wheeler, chief <strong>of</strong> staff, in <strong>the</strong> Center<br />

for <strong>the</strong> Study <strong>of</strong> Law and ReligionatEmory University for <strong>the</strong>ir hard work on<br />

this volume. It was aprivilege to learn from each <strong>of</strong> our chapter authors, and to<br />

work with our editorial friends atEvangelischen Verlagsanstalt in Leipzig to<br />

bring this volume to press.

Preface to <strong>the</strong> Series<br />

Five hundred years ago, Protestant reformerMartin Lu<strong>the</strong>r argued that “threeestates”<br />

(drei Stände) lie at <strong>the</strong> foundation <strong>of</strong> ajust and orderly society – marital<br />

families, religious communities, and political authorities. Parents in <strong>the</strong> home;<br />

pastors in <strong>the</strong> church;magistrates in <strong>the</strong> state – <strong>the</strong>se, said Lu<strong>the</strong>r, are <strong>the</strong> three<br />

authorities whom God appointed to represent divine justice and mercy in <strong>the</strong><br />

world, to protect peace and liberty in earthly life. Household, church, and state<br />

– <strong>the</strong>se are <strong>the</strong> three institutional pillars on which to build social systems <strong>of</strong> education<br />

and schooling, charity and social welfare, economy and architecture, art<br />

and publication.<strong>Family</strong>, faith, and freedom – <strong>the</strong>se are <strong>the</strong> three things that people<br />

will die for.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> half millennium sinceLu<strong>the</strong>r, historians have uncovered various classical<br />

and Christian antecedents to <strong>the</strong>se early Protestant views. Numerous later<br />

<strong>the</strong>orists have propounded all manner <strong>of</strong> variations and applications <strong>of</strong> this threeestates<br />

<strong>the</strong>ory, many increasingly abstracted from Lu<strong>the</strong>r’s overtly Christian<br />

worldview. Early modern covenant <strong>the</strong>ologians, both Christian and Jewish, described<br />

<strong>the</strong> marital, confessional, and political covenants that God calls human<br />

beings to form, each directed to interrelated personal and public ends. Social-contract<br />

<strong>the</strong>orists differentiated <strong>the</strong> three contracts that humans enter as <strong>the</strong>y move<br />

from <strong>the</strong> state <strong>of</strong> nature to an organizedsociety protective <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>irnatural rights –<br />

<strong>the</strong> marital contract <strong>of</strong> husband and wife; <strong>the</strong> government contract <strong>of</strong> rulers and<br />

citizens;and, for some, <strong>the</strong> religious contracts<strong>of</strong>preachers and parishioners. Early<br />

anthropologists positedthree stages <strong>of</strong> development <strong>of</strong> civilization – from family-basedtribes<br />

and clans, to priest-run <strong>the</strong>ocracies, to fully organizedstates that<br />

embraced all three institutions. Sociologists distinguished three main forms <strong>of</strong><br />

authority in an organized community –“traditional” authority that begins in <strong>the</strong><br />

home, “charismatic” authority that is exemplified in <strong>the</strong> church, and “legal” authority<br />

that is rooted in <strong>the</strong> state. Legal historians outlined threestages <strong>of</strong> development<br />

<strong>of</strong> legal norms – from <strong>the</strong> habits and rules <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> family, to <strong>the</strong> customs<br />

and canons <strong>of</strong> religion, to <strong>the</strong> statutes and codes <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> state.

12 Preface to <strong>the</strong> Series<br />

Already acentury ago, however, scholars in different fieldsbegan to flatten out<br />

this hierarchical<strong>the</strong>ory <strong>of</strong> social institutions andtoemphasize <strong>the</strong> foundational role<br />

<strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rsocialinstitutions alongside <strong>the</strong>family, church, andstate in shaping private<br />

andpublic life and character. Sociologists like Max Weber andTalcott Parsons emphasized<br />

<strong>the</strong>shaping powers <strong>of</strong> “technical rationality” exemplifiedespeciallyinnew<br />

industry, scientific education, and market economies. Legal scholars like Otto von<br />

Gierke and F. W. Maitland emphasized <strong>the</strong> critical roles <strong>of</strong>nonstate legal associations<br />

(Genossenschaften) inmaintaining ajust social, political, and legal order historicallyand<br />

today.Catholic subsidiarity <strong>the</strong>ories<strong>of</strong>PopesLeo XIIIand Pius XI emphasized<br />

<strong>the</strong> essential task <strong>of</strong> mediating social unitsbetween <strong>the</strong> individual and <strong>the</strong><br />

state to cater to <strong>the</strong> full range <strong>of</strong>needs, interests, rights, and duties <strong>of</strong> individuals.<br />

Protestant <strong>the</strong>ories<strong>of</strong>sphere sovereignty, inspired by Abraham Kuyper, argued that<br />

not only churches, states, and families but also<strong>the</strong> social spheres <strong>of</strong> art,labor, education,<br />

economics, agriculture, recreation, and more should enjoy alevel <strong>of</strong> independence<br />

fromo<strong>the</strong>rs, especiallyanoverreaching churchorstate.Various<strong>the</strong>ories<br />

<strong>of</strong> social or structuralpluralism, civilsociety, voluntary associations, <strong>the</strong> independentsector,<br />

multiculturalism, multinormativity,and o<strong>the</strong>r such labels have now come<br />

to <strong>the</strong> fore in <strong>the</strong>ensuing decades – both liberaland conservative,religious andsecular,<br />

and featuring all manner <strong>of</strong>methods and logics.<br />

Pluralism <strong>of</strong> all sorts is now acommonplace <strong>of</strong> late modern societies. At minimum,<br />

this means amultitude <strong>of</strong> free and equal individuals and amultitude <strong>of</strong><br />

groups and institutions, each with very different political, moral, religious, and<br />

pr<strong>of</strong>essional interests and orientations. It includes <strong>the</strong> sundry associations, interest<br />

groups, parties, lobbies, and social movements that <strong>of</strong>ten rapidly flourishand<br />

fade around acommon cause, especially when aided by modern technology and<br />

various social media. Some see in this texture <strong>of</strong> plurality an enormous potential<br />

for colorful and creative development and arobust expression <strong>of</strong> human and cultural<br />

freedom. O<strong>the</strong>rs see achaotic individualism and radical relativism that endanger<br />

normativeeducation, moral character formation, and effective cultivation<br />

<strong>of</strong> enduring values or virtues.<br />

Pluralism viewed as vague plurality, however, focuses on only one aspect <strong>of</strong><br />

late modern societies – <strong>the</strong> equality <strong>of</strong> individuals, and <strong>the</strong>ir almost unlimited<br />

freedom to participate peaceably at any time asarespected voice in <strong>the</strong> moral<br />

reasoning and civil interactions <strong>of</strong> asociety. But this view does not adequately<br />

recognize that, beneath <strong>the</strong> shifting cacophony <strong>of</strong> social forms and norms that<br />

constitute modernity, pluralistic societies have heavy normative codes that shape<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir individual and collective values, morals, preferences, and prejudices.<br />

<strong>The</strong> sources <strong>of</strong> much <strong>of</strong> this normative coding and moral education in late<br />

modern pluralistic societies are <strong>the</strong> deep and powerful socialsystems that are <strong>the</strong><br />

pillars <strong>of</strong> every advanced culture. <strong>The</strong> most powerful and pervasive <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se are<br />

<strong>the</strong> social systems <strong>of</strong> law, religion, politics, science/academy, market, media, family,<br />

education, medicine, and national defense. <strong>The</strong> actual empirical forms <strong>of</strong> each

Preface to <strong>the</strong> Series 13<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se powerful social systems can and do vary greatly, even in<strong>the</strong> relatively<br />

homogeneous societies <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> late modern West. But <strong>the</strong>se deeper socialsystems<br />

in one form or ano<strong>the</strong>r are structurally essential and <strong>of</strong>ten normatively decisive in<br />

individual and communal lives.<br />

Every advanced society has acomprehensive legal system <strong>of</strong> justice and order,<br />

religious systems <strong>of</strong> ritual and doctrine, afamily system <strong>of</strong> procreation and<br />

love, an economic system <strong>of</strong> trade and value, amedia system <strong>of</strong> communication<br />

and dissemination <strong>of</strong> news and information, and an educational system <strong>of</strong> preservation,<br />

application, and creation<strong>of</strong>knowledge and scientific advance. Many advanced<br />

societies also have massive systems <strong>of</strong> science, technology, health care,<br />

and national defense with vast influence over and through all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se o<strong>the</strong>r social<br />

systems. <strong>The</strong>se pervasive social systems lie at <strong>the</strong> foundation <strong>of</strong> modern advanced<br />

societies, and <strong>the</strong>y anchor <strong>the</strong> vast pluralities <strong>of</strong> associations and social interactions<br />

that might happen to exist at any given time.<br />

Each <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se social systems has internal value systems, institutionalized rationalities,<br />

and normative expectations that toge<strong>the</strong>r help to shape each individual’smorality<br />

and character. Each <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se social spheres, moreover, has its own<br />

pr<strong>of</strong>essionals and experts who shape and implement its internal structures and<br />

processes. <strong>The</strong> normative network created by <strong>the</strong>se socialspheres is <strong>of</strong>ten harder<br />

to grasp today, since late modern pluralistic societies usually do not bring <strong>the</strong>se<br />

different value systems to light under <strong>the</strong> dominance <strong>of</strong> just one organization, institution,and<br />

power. This normative network has also become more shifting and<br />

fragile, especially since traditional social systems like religion and <strong>the</strong> family<br />

have eroded in <strong>the</strong>irdurabilityand power, and o<strong>the</strong>r social systems like science,<br />

<strong>the</strong> market, health care, defense, and <strong>the</strong> media have become more powerful.<br />

<strong>The</strong> aim <strong>of</strong> this project on “CharacterFormation and Moral EducationinLate<br />

Modern Pluralistic Societies” is to identify <strong>the</strong> realities and potentials <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se<br />

core social systems to provide moral orientation and character formation in our<br />

day. What can and should <strong>the</strong>se social spheres, separately and toge<strong>the</strong>r, do in<br />

shaping <strong>the</strong> moral character <strong>of</strong>late modern individuals who, by nature, culture,<br />

and constitutional norms, are free and equalindignity and rights?What are and<br />

should be <strong>the</strong> core educational functions and moral responsibilities <strong>of</strong> each <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong>se socialspheres?How can we better understand and better influence <strong>the</strong> complex<br />

interactions among individualism, <strong>the</strong> normative binding powers <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se<br />

social systems, and <strong>the</strong> creativity <strong>of</strong> civil groups and institutions? How can we<br />

map and measure <strong>the</strong> different hierarchies <strong>of</strong> values that govern each <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se<br />

social systems, and that are also interwoven and interconnected in various ways<br />

in shaping late modern understandings <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> common good? How do we negotiate<br />

<strong>the</strong> boundaries and conflicts between and among <strong>the</strong>se social systems when<br />

one encroaches on <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r, or imposesits values and rationalities on individuals<br />

at <strong>the</strong> cost <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r social spheres or <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> common good?What and where are

14 Preface to <strong>the</strong> Series<br />

<strong>the</strong> intrinsic strengths <strong>of</strong> each social sphere that should be made more overt in<br />

character formation, public education, and <strong>the</strong> shaping<strong>of</strong>minds and mentalities?<br />

<strong>The</strong>se are some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> guiding questions at work in this project and in this<br />

volume. Our project aims to provide asystematicaccount <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> role <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se powerful<br />

normativecodesoperating in <strong>the</strong> socialspheres<strong>of</strong>law, religion, <strong>the</strong> family,<br />

<strong>the</strong> market, <strong>the</strong> media, science and technology, <strong>the</strong> academy, health care, and defense<br />

in <strong>the</strong> late modern liberal West. Our focus is on selected examples and case<br />

studies drawnfrom Western Europe, North America, South Africa, and Australia,<br />

which toge<strong>the</strong>r provide just enough diversity to test out broader <strong>the</strong>ories <strong>of</strong> character<br />

formation and moral education. Our scholars are drawn from across <strong>the</strong><br />

academy, with representative voices from <strong>the</strong> humanities, social sciences, and<br />

natural sciences as well as <strong>the</strong> pr<strong>of</strong>essions <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ology, law, business, medicine,<br />

and more. While most <strong>of</strong> our scholars come from <strong>the</strong> Protestant and Catholic<br />

worlds, our endeavor is to <strong>of</strong>fer comparative insights that will help scholars from<br />

any pr<strong>of</strong>ession or confession. While our laboratory is principally Western liberal<br />

societies, <strong>the</strong> modern forces <strong>of</strong> globalizationwill soon make <strong>the</strong>se issues <strong>of</strong> moral<br />

character formation aconcern for every culture and region <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> world – given<br />

<strong>the</strong> power <strong>of</strong> global socialmedia, entertainment, and sports; <strong>the</strong> pervasiveness <strong>of</strong><br />

global finance, business, trade, and law; and <strong>the</strong> perennial global worries over<br />

food, health care, environmental degradation, and natural disasters.<br />

This volume focuses on <strong>the</strong> impact <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> family on character formation, ethical<br />

education,and <strong>the</strong>communication<strong>of</strong>values in late modern pluralisticsocieties.<strong>The</strong><br />

familyishumanity’soldestand most basicsocialinstitution, buttoday it is fragile,<br />

fractured, andfraughtinmanyliberallands.Inthis volume scholarsfromsociology,<br />

psychology,history, religion,ethics, law,and medicine analyze <strong>the</strong> complex nature<br />

andplace <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>familyincharacter formationand human flourishing. <strong>The</strong> chapters<br />

study <strong>the</strong>impact<strong>of</strong>catechesis, schooling,work, and discipline on <strong>the</strong>development<br />

<strong>of</strong> individual moral agency and responsibility. <strong>The</strong>y document <strong>the</strong> critical roles <strong>of</strong><br />

familylove, trust,fidelity, and storytelling in shaping <strong>the</strong>moral character <strong>of</strong> allfamily<br />

membersfrom infancytoold age. <strong>The</strong>y describeeffective strategies <strong>of</strong> resistance,<br />

resilience, andrenewal forfamilymembers wh<strong>of</strong>ace abuse,divorce,death, chauvinism,<br />

racism, and homophobia. And several chapters challenge modern arguments<br />

andpoliciesthatflattenorabolish <strong>the</strong> maritalfamily, even whileseveralauthorscall<br />

for family lawreforms in <strong>the</strong>ir homecountries<strong>of</strong><strong>the</strong> United States,Germany, South<br />

Africa, Australia, and China. While <strong>the</strong> marital household may no longer be <strong>the</strong><br />

“foundation <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> polis,” or <strong>the</strong> “cornerstone <strong>of</strong> civilization,” it remains aunique<br />

and essential institution for character formation that church, state, economy, and<br />

society alike should support and streng<strong>the</strong>n.<br />

<strong>John</strong> <strong>Witte</strong> Jr., Emory University<br />

<strong>Michael</strong> <strong>Welker</strong>, University <strong>of</strong> Heidelberg<br />

<strong>Stephen</strong> <strong>Pickard</strong>, Charles Sturt University

Part One:<br />

<strong>The</strong> Place <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> in<br />

Modern Society

“It Takes aSociety to Raise a<strong>Family</strong>”:<br />

<strong>The</strong> Multidimensional <strong>Family</strong> Sphere<br />

<strong>John</strong> <strong>Witte</strong> Jr. 1<br />

This volume on <strong>the</strong> family, along with <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs in this book series, explores<strong>the</strong><br />

role <strong>of</strong> sundry social systems, separately and toge<strong>the</strong>r, in shaping individual character<br />

and collective values in late modern liberal societies. Historically in <strong>the</strong><br />

West, <strong>the</strong> marital family was regarded as <strong>the</strong> cornerstone <strong>of</strong>character formation<br />

and social organization. Aristotle and <strong>the</strong> Roman Stoics called <strong>the</strong> union <strong>of</strong> husband<br />

and wife, and parentand child, <strong>the</strong> “foundation <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> polis” and “<strong>the</strong> private<br />

font <strong>of</strong> public virtue.” <strong>The</strong> church fa<strong>the</strong>rs and medieval Catholics called <strong>the</strong> monogamous<br />

marital household <strong>the</strong> “seedbed” <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> city, “<strong>the</strong> sacramentalforce that<br />

welds Christiansocietytoge<strong>the</strong>r.” Early modern Protestant <strong>the</strong>ologians,common<br />

law jurists, and utilitarian philosophers alike called <strong>the</strong> marital household, a “little<br />

church” and a “little commonwealth,” <strong>the</strong> first school <strong>of</strong> love and justice, nurture<br />

and education, charity and citizenship, discipline and production. Echoing<br />

<strong>the</strong>se traditional insights, evolutionary scientists now argue that humans have<br />

developed enduring pair-bonding strategies <strong>of</strong> reproduction as <strong>the</strong> fittest means<br />

for long-term survivaland success as aspecies. Modern social scientists and public-health<br />

experts have pointed to <strong>the</strong> stable marital household as acritical source<br />

<strong>of</strong> happiness and flourishing for men, women, and children. <strong>The</strong> tradition has<br />

long taught that while <strong>the</strong> maritalfamily is nei<strong>the</strong>r good for everyone nor always<br />

good, it <strong>of</strong>fers essentialprivate goods to most couples and children and vital public<br />

goods to church, state, economy, and society. 2<br />

Today, however, <strong>the</strong> marital family has become more fragmented and fragile<br />

in liberal societies. Many states now <strong>of</strong>fer several <strong>of</strong>f-<strong>the</strong>-rack legal models <strong>of</strong><br />

straight and same-sex marriage, civil union, and domestic partnership with<br />

1<br />

2<br />

This chapter is adapted from my Church, State, and <strong>Family</strong>: Reconciling Traditional Teachings<br />

and Modern Liberties (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), chap. 7, which<br />

provides more detailed analysis and references, hereafter CSF.<br />

See detailed sources in ibid. and in my From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion,<br />

and Law in <strong>the</strong> Western Tradition, 2nd. ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster <strong>John</strong> Knox Press,<br />

2012), hereafter FSC.

18 <strong>John</strong> <strong>Witte</strong> Jr.<br />

shrinking formal and functional distinctions between <strong>the</strong>se domestic forms and<br />

simple nonmarital cohabitation. Strong privacy laws protect all manner <strong>of</strong> voluntary<br />

sexual interactions among consenting adults, and rapidly growing portions<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> population are “drifting into sex and parenthood without marriage.” 3 To be<br />

sure, some 90 percent <strong>of</strong> American citizens with college educations and sufficient<br />

means now form stable marital families and rear and form <strong>the</strong>ir childreninintact<br />

homes – markedly stronger numbers than thirty years ago at <strong>the</strong> height <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

sexual revolution and with its 50 percent divorce rate. 4 But persons with fewer<br />

means and less education today “have all but given up on marriage,” June Carbone<br />

and Naomi Cahn report in asoberingcomprehensive study. “For <strong>the</strong> majority<br />

<strong>of</strong> Americans who haven’tgraduated from college, marriage rates are low, divorce<br />

rates are high, and afirst child is more likely to be born to parents who are<br />

single than to parents who are married.” 5 And <strong>the</strong> rates <strong>of</strong> nonmarital cohabitation<br />

and procreation are considerably higher in most parts <strong>of</strong> Western Europe,<br />

even while many European nations are losing<strong>the</strong> cultural cohesion, political will,<br />

and economic capitalneeded to maintain <strong>the</strong> modern welfare state that absorbed<br />

many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> responsibilities historically discharged by <strong>the</strong> church and family. As<br />

<strong>the</strong> late great Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> United Kingdom, put it:<br />

Sex has become, for <strong>the</strong> first time since <strong>the</strong> conversion to Christianity <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Roman<br />

Emperor Constantine, an almost value-free zone. Whatever happens between two consenting<br />

adults in private is, most people now believe, entirely amatter for <strong>the</strong>m. <strong>The</strong><br />

law may not intervene; nei<strong>the</strong>r may social sanction. It is simply not o<strong>the</strong>r people’s<br />

business. Toge<strong>the</strong>r with awhole series <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r changes, <strong>the</strong> result has been that what<br />

marriage brought toge<strong>the</strong>r has now split apart. <strong>The</strong>re has been adivorce between sex<br />

and love, love and marriage, marriage and reproduction, reproduction and education<br />

and nurture. Sex is for pleasure. Love is afeeling, not acommitment. Marriage is now<br />

deeply unfashionable. Nurture has been outsourced to specialized child carers. Education<br />

is <strong>the</strong> responsibility <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> state. And <strong>the</strong> consequences <strong>of</strong> failure are delegated<br />

to social workers. 6<br />

3<br />

4<br />

5<br />

6<br />

Isabel V. Sawhill, Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage<br />

(Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2014).<br />

See detailed annual statistics and analysis by <strong>the</strong> National Marriage Project at <strong>the</strong> University<br />

<strong>of</strong> Virginia http://nationalmarriageproject.org/ and <strong>the</strong> Institute for American<br />

Values, http://www.americanvalues.org/.<br />

June Carbone and Naomi Cahn, Marriage Matters: How Inequality Is Remaking <strong>the</strong> American<br />

<strong>Family</strong> (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 19–20.<br />

Jonathan Sacks, <strong>The</strong> Home We Build Toge<strong>the</strong>r: Recreating Society (London: Continuum,<br />

2007), 210.

<strong>The</strong> Multidimensional <strong>Family</strong> Sphere 19<br />

It is easy to lament <strong>the</strong> breakdown <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> modern family and <strong>the</strong> seeming slide<br />

into asexual state <strong>of</strong> nature where life is “nasty, brutish,and short,” particularly<br />

for women, children, <strong>the</strong> elderly and <strong>the</strong> disabled bereft <strong>of</strong>reliable kin altruism,<br />

diaconal care, or socialwelfare. But happily, in recent years anumber <strong>of</strong> leading<br />

scholars, advocates, and religious, cultural, political, and public-health leaders<br />

have responded decisively in leading apowerful new “marriage movement.” This<br />

movement combines traditional teachings and modern social science and publichealth<br />

findings to advocatefor stablemarital families,responsible sex and parentage,<br />

and proper family planning as essentialfor private flourishing and socialstability.<br />

And this movement has pressed for robust new church,state, and economic<br />

policies in support <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> stable marital family – including, notably, same-sex families.<br />

Part <strong>of</strong> this pr<strong>of</strong>amily movement, Isubmit, requires us to rethink <strong>the</strong> place<br />

and role <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> maritalfamily in late modern liberal societies and <strong>the</strong> interaction<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> family witho<strong>the</strong>r powerful social systems. Perhaps <strong>the</strong> maritalfamily is no<br />

longer <strong>the</strong> “foundation <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> polis,” as Aristotle wrote, or “<strong>the</strong> cornerstone <strong>of</strong><br />

Western civilization,” as <strong>the</strong> United States Supreme Court confidently<br />

pronounced. 7 But <strong>the</strong> family remains an essential institution in late modern liberal<br />

societies that still does and should shape our public and private lives, characters,<br />

and value formation, even if it is now more interwoven with andnewly dependentono<strong>the</strong>r<br />

social institutions. This is <strong>the</strong> flip side <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> traditional Western<br />

teaching that <strong>the</strong> stable family is <strong>the</strong> foundation <strong>of</strong> awell-ordered society: awellordered<br />

society is just as much <strong>the</strong> foundation <strong>of</strong> astable family. Without strong<br />

social and institutional supports, <strong>the</strong> marital family is “pitifully vulnerable,” <strong>the</strong><br />

late great sociologist Robert Bellah reminded us. Just as “it takes avillage to raise<br />

achild, … it takes asociety toraise afamily.” 8<br />

To make this claim,Ipresent <strong>the</strong>modernmarital family as asphere, or aglobe<br />

– with anatural pole on <strong>the</strong> bottom, aspiritual pole on top, and various social,<br />

economic, communicative, and contractual dimensions radiating between <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

At <strong>the</strong> bottom <strong>of</strong> this sphere is (1) a natural pole that anchors <strong>the</strong> natural goods <strong>of</strong><br />

marriage and <strong>the</strong> inherent human inclinations, appetites, capacities, and imperatives<br />

for sex, marriage, and family life. Radiating up from this natural pole are:<br />

(2) a social dimension that articulates <strong>the</strong> public communal functions and goods<br />

<strong>of</strong> marriage and <strong>the</strong> family, and that recognizes <strong>the</strong> complex groups <strong>of</strong> institutions<br />

and pr<strong>of</strong>essions that support and interact with <strong>the</strong> domestic household and its<br />

members; (3) an economic dimension that reflects <strong>the</strong> union <strong>of</strong> properties, labor,<br />

and entitlements by marriage, <strong>the</strong> ongoing material rights and duties <strong>of</strong> spouses,<br />

7<br />

8<br />

Aristotle, Politics, 1.1.1; Reynolds v. U.S., 98 U.S. 145, 164–66 (1879).<br />

Robert Bellah, “Epilogue: It Takes aSociety to Raise a<strong>Family</strong>,” in Steven M. Tipton and<br />

<strong>John</strong> <strong>Witte</strong> Jr., eds., <strong>Family</strong> Transformed: Religion, Values, and Society in American Life<br />

(Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2005), 286–98.

20 <strong>John</strong> <strong>Witte</strong> Jr.<br />

parents, and children during and after amarriage, and <strong>the</strong> channeling, expressive,<br />

and signaling functions <strong>of</strong> modern family law; (4) a communicative dimension,<br />

expressed in <strong>the</strong> public liturgies, celebrations, and symbols that mark <strong>the</strong><br />

formation <strong>of</strong> amarriage and <strong>the</strong> birth or confirmation <strong>of</strong> achild as well as in <strong>the</strong><br />

vital private daily communications among spouses, children, and household dependents<br />

concerning sex, finance, labor, nurture, formation, social responsibilities,<br />

and more; and (5) a contractual dimension, expressed in <strong>the</strong> complexformal<br />

promises and provisions that form amarriage and household, and <strong>the</strong> ongoing<br />

obligations that attach to <strong>the</strong> relationships <strong>of</strong> husband and wife, parent and child,<br />

family and society. At <strong>the</strong> top <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> sphere is (6) a spiritual polethat helps binds<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> natural, social, economic, communicative, and contractual dimensions<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> marital family around sacramental, covenantal, or o<strong>the</strong>r transcendent<br />

ideals, and stipulates <strong>the</strong> spiritual inspirations and aspirationsthat marriageand<br />

family life provide for husbands and wives, parents and children, and broader<br />

communities.<br />

Social <strong>the</strong>orists talk alot about “social spheres” –spheres <strong>of</strong> justice, liberty,<br />

love, governance,morality, education, and so on. 9 At minimum, this language is<br />

descriptive <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> distinct institutions or sectors <strong>of</strong> modern differentiated societies<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir respective contributions to private and public life. But talk <strong>of</strong> spheres is<br />

also prescriptive for many <strong>the</strong>orists who aim to define and defend more clearly<br />

<strong>the</strong> naturalorvoluntary associations that buffer <strong>the</strong> individual from <strong>the</strong> state and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r dominating institutions. Given <strong>the</strong> long and cruel experiences with political<br />

tyranny and totalitarianism in <strong>the</strong> West, many writers press for <strong>the</strong> separation,<br />

independence, freedom, autonomy, or even sovereignty <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> spheres<strong>of</strong>family,<br />

church, academy, media, market, and o<strong>the</strong>r institutions, both from each o<strong>the</strong>r and<br />

from <strong>the</strong> state. Various <strong>the</strong>ories <strong>of</strong> social or structural pluralism, civil society, subsidiarity,<br />

sphere sovereignty, voluntary associations, <strong>the</strong> independent sector,<br />

multiculturalism, multinormativity, and o<strong>the</strong>r such labels are now crowding <strong>the</strong><br />

bookshelves – both liberal and conservative, religious and secular, and featuring<br />

all manner <strong>of</strong> methods and logics.<br />

This chapter draws on some <strong>of</strong> this literature to describe briefly <strong>the</strong> six dimensions<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> marital family sphere as historically constructed and potentially reconstructed<br />

for our modern day – <strong>the</strong> natural, social, economic, communicative,<br />

contractual, and spiritual dimensions. This sphere metaphor is aheuristic device<br />

– apicturetodescribe <strong>the</strong> various modes <strong>of</strong> family life, <strong>the</strong> different disciplinary<br />

9<br />

See, for example, <strong>Michael</strong> Walzer, Spheres <strong>of</strong> Justice: ADefense <strong>of</strong> Pluralism and Equality<br />

(New York: Basic Books, 2010); <strong>Michael</strong> G. Kammen, Spheres <strong>of</strong> Liberty (1985; repr., Jackson:<br />

University <strong>of</strong> Mississippi Press, 2011); <strong>Stephen</strong> B. Post, Spheres <strong>of</strong> Love: Toward a<br />

New Ethics <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> (Dallas, TX: Sou<strong>the</strong>rn Methodist University Press, 1994); Harvey<br />

Lazar and Christian Leuprecht, eds., Spheres <strong>of</strong> Governance (Montreal/Kingston, ON:<br />

McGill-Queens University Press, 2007).

<strong>The</strong> Multidimensional <strong>Family</strong> Sphere 21<br />

perspectiveson<strong>the</strong> family, and <strong>the</strong> range <strong>of</strong> institutions and pr<strong>of</strong>essions in which<br />

<strong>the</strong> family is now embedded. But in stressing <strong>the</strong> multidimensionality <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> marital<br />

family sphere, Iamalso pushingagainst <strong>the</strong>orists and trends that have sought<br />

to flatten <strong>the</strong> maritalfamily into one or two dimensions, or to abolish it altoge<strong>the</strong>r<br />

as adistinct and necessary social institution.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Nature <strong>of</strong><strong>the</strong> Marital <strong>Family</strong><br />

<strong>The</strong> Western tradition has long treated <strong>the</strong> marital family as a “natural” association.<br />

<strong>The</strong> ancient Greekstaught that “marriagewas created by Nature immediately<br />

after <strong>the</strong> dispersal <strong>of</strong> Chaos,” as one Greek liturgist put it. “<strong>The</strong> ordering <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

universe took place because <strong>of</strong> Marriage and perhaps … Love too was created<br />

<strong>the</strong>n.” Marriage helped “to create man, and contrived tomake him virtually immortal,<br />

furnishing successive generations to accompany <strong>the</strong> passage <strong>of</strong> time.” 10<br />

Moreover, thought <strong>the</strong> ancient Greeks, marriage helped to complete aperson’s<br />

life. “Love is born into every human being,” Plato wrote famously; “it calls back<br />

<strong>the</strong> halves <strong>of</strong> our original nature toge<strong>the</strong>r; it tries to make one out <strong>of</strong> two and heal<br />

<strong>the</strong> wound <strong>of</strong> human nature.” 11 In his Laws,Plato thus advised young men to marry<br />

“for <strong>the</strong> city’sgood” and to restrict “procreative intercourse to its natural function,”<br />

for such “moderation” will bring “untold good. It is dictated, to begin with,<br />

by nature’s own voice … and wins men to affection <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir wedded wives. <strong>The</strong>re<br />

are also numerous o<strong>the</strong>r blessings which will follow.” 12<br />

<strong>The</strong> Bible taught that God created humans as “male and female,” called <strong>the</strong>m<br />

to join toge<strong>the</strong>r as “two in one flesh,” and commanded <strong>the</strong>m to “be fruitful and<br />

multiply” and to fill <strong>the</strong> earth. 13 God created and inclined <strong>the</strong> first man and woman<br />

to find completion in each o<strong>the</strong>r: “This at last is bone <strong>of</strong> my bones, and flesh <strong>of</strong> my<br />

flesh,” Adam said on first meeting Eve. 14 God endowedhumans with <strong>the</strong> physical<br />

capacity to join toge<strong>the</strong>r and beget children. <strong>The</strong> Judeo-Christian tradition taught<br />

that <strong>the</strong>se natural qualities and duties continued after <strong>the</strong> fall into sin and <strong>the</strong><br />

expulsion <strong>of</strong> humans from Paradise. But marriage also served as aremedy to allay<br />

sexual sin. Ra<strong>the</strong>r than allow sinful people toburn with lust, God provided <strong>the</strong><br />

institution <strong>of</strong> marriage so that couples could direct <strong>the</strong>ir natural drives and desires<br />

toward <strong>the</strong> service <strong>of</strong> each o<strong>the</strong>r, <strong>the</strong>ir children, <strong>the</strong>ir kin, and <strong>the</strong>ir broader<br />

10<br />

11<br />

12<br />

13<br />

14<br />

Menander Rhetor, trans. and ed. D. A. Russell and N. G. Wilson (Oxford: Oxford University<br />

Press, 1981), 136–39.<br />

Plato: Symposium, trans. Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff (Indianapolis: Hackett<br />

Publishing Co., 1989), 25–31.<br />

Plato, Laws, VI.773b; VIII.839a–b.<br />

Genesis 1:26–28.<br />

Genesis 2:23–24.

22 <strong>John</strong> <strong>Witte</strong> Jr.<br />

communities. Scores <strong>of</strong>variations on <strong>the</strong>se stories about<strong>the</strong> mythical or natural<br />

origins <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> marital family have echoed in <strong>the</strong> history <strong>of</strong> Western thought.<br />

Many Western liberals have been brought up on asocial-contract variation <strong>of</strong><br />

this same idea. In moving from a “state <strong>of</strong> nature” to an organized society, <strong>the</strong> first<br />

contract humans formed was <strong>the</strong> marital contract between afree and equal man<br />

and woman. This contract came before social, political, ecclesiastical, and o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

private contracts and provided <strong>the</strong> most basic protection <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> natural rights and<br />

liberties <strong>of</strong> men, women, and children. As <strong>the</strong> first and most fundamental contract,<br />

<strong>the</strong> marital family demanded<strong>the</strong> support and protection <strong>of</strong> all o<strong>the</strong>r contractual<br />

associations, including <strong>the</strong> church, state, society, and economy.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Western tradition has long taught not only that <strong>the</strong> marital family has its<br />

origins in nature but also that family members get guidance from natural law.<br />

This law is, most basically as <strong>the</strong> Roman jurists put it, “<strong>the</strong> law that nature has<br />

taught all animals,” giving <strong>the</strong>m “natural inclinations” to protect, preserve, and<br />

perpetuate <strong>the</strong>mselves through natural procreative means. 15 Natural law also<br />

consists <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> “natural instincts” or “intuitions” that are unique to humans and<br />

<strong>the</strong> “common customs” and “conventions” that have emerged among humans<br />

over time. 16 <strong>The</strong>se distinctly human qualities <strong>of</strong> natural law are known, refined,<br />

and applied in human societies through <strong>the</strong> exercise <strong>of</strong> reason and conscience,<br />

medieval and early modern writers emphasized. Many animals, driven only by<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir natural instincts for self-preservation, kill and eat each o<strong>the</strong>rand take each<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r’shomes, food, mates, and <strong>of</strong>fspring. Rational humans, by contrast, have declared<br />

<strong>the</strong>se to be crimes <strong>of</strong> homicide, <strong>the</strong>ft, adultery, and infanticide and have set<br />

up laws to deter and punish such harms. Many male animals engage in violent<br />

sex, keep harems, and <strong>of</strong>ten abandon <strong>the</strong>irmates and <strong>of</strong>fspring. Rational humans,<br />

however, have learned to prohibit and punish <strong>the</strong>se acts as crimes <strong>of</strong> rape, polygamy,<br />

and desertion,which defy<strong>the</strong> natural justice owed to <strong>the</strong> victim and <strong>the</strong> community.<br />

Fur<strong>the</strong>rmore,humans have learned that exclusive and enduringpair-bonding<br />

strategies<strong>of</strong>marital procreation are <strong>the</strong> best way to ensure paternal certainty and<br />

joint parental investment in <strong>the</strong>ir children. This stability is crucial since human<br />

babies, unlike <strong>the</strong> young <strong>of</strong> most o<strong>the</strong>r animals, are born tiny, vulnerable, and<br />

utterly dependent on <strong>the</strong>ir parents’ care for avery long time. Moreover, stable<br />

marriages are <strong>the</strong> best way to ensure that men and women are treated wi<strong>the</strong>qual<br />

dignity and respect, and that husbandsand wives, parents and children, provide<br />

each o<strong>the</strong>r with support, protection, and edification throughout <strong>the</strong>ir lifetimes.<br />

15<br />

16<br />

Justinian’sInstitutes,trans. Peter Birks and Grant McLeod (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University<br />

Press, 1987), I.1.2; <strong>The</strong> Digest <strong>of</strong> Justinian,ed. <strong>The</strong>odor Mommsen and Paul Krüger, trans.<br />

Alan Watson, 4vols. (Philadelphia: University <strong>of</strong> Pennsylvania Press, 1985), I.1.3.<br />

Decretum Magistri Gratiani, ed. Emil Friedberg; repr. ed. (Graz: Akademische Druck- u.<br />

Verlagsanstalt, 1959), Dist. 1, c. 7.

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Family</strong> in <strong>the</strong> Matrix <strong>of</strong> Habit<br />

and History<br />

Robert N. Bellah 1<br />

In <strong>the</strong> debate over <strong>the</strong> family in recent years, <strong>the</strong> question has been raised as to<br />

whe<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> family is asacred institution or an obsolete tyranny.Even those <strong>of</strong> us<br />

who are not prepared to think <strong>of</strong> marriage as tyranny are probably not entirely<br />

happy to think <strong>of</strong> it as an institution ei<strong>the</strong>r. As my coauthors and Ipointed out<br />

in <strong>The</strong> Good Society, Americans do not really much like <strong>the</strong> idea <strong>of</strong> institutions,<br />

and this for two reasons. First, institutions come down from <strong>the</strong> past, are based<br />

on largely unexamined traditions and habits, and <strong>the</strong>refore probably do not really<br />

fit our current needs. Second, institutions are oppressive – at <strong>the</strong> extreme, one<br />

thinks <strong>of</strong> prisons and mental asylums – and <strong>the</strong>y limit our free individual choice.<br />

Actually, this way <strong>of</strong> thinking about institutions is modern, though it has been<br />

around for awhile; it is, if Imay put it this way, part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> tradition <strong>of</strong> modernity.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> earliest thinkers to express <strong>the</strong> modern criticism <strong>of</strong> inherited institutions<br />

was René Descartes, in <strong>the</strong> seventeenth century. At <strong>the</strong> beginning<strong>of</strong><strong>the</strong> second<br />

part <strong>of</strong> one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> founding documents <strong>of</strong> modernity, <strong>The</strong> Discourse on<br />

Method, 2 Descartes describes <strong>the</strong> typical European town <strong>of</strong>his day. Such atown<br />

is simply ahodgepodge, ajumble <strong>of</strong> buildings from different eras, in different<br />

styles, <strong>of</strong> different forms and shapes, and <strong>the</strong> streets on which <strong>the</strong>y are situated<br />

are <strong>of</strong>ten crooked, narrow, and inconvenient. How much better, says Descartes, if<br />

we could just tear <strong>the</strong> whole thing down and start over, putting up orderly buildings<br />

on straight streets withproper rightangles. In o<strong>the</strong>r words, Descartes’sidea<br />

<strong>of</strong> an ideal town is not one inherited from <strong>the</strong> past, but one designed anew from a<br />

rational blueprint. For Descartes, <strong>the</strong> town was ametaphor for our inherited institutionsand<br />

ways <strong>of</strong> thought. (In <strong>the</strong> twentieth century, though, <strong>the</strong> Romanian<br />

1<br />

2<br />

This chapter was first presented as alecture for <strong>the</strong> Center <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Study <strong>of</strong> Law and Religion<br />

in 2003, and <strong>the</strong>n published in Steven M. Tipton and <strong>John</strong> <strong>Witte</strong> Jr., eds., <strong>Family</strong><br />

Transformed: Religion, Values, and Society in American Life (Washington, DC: Georgetown<br />

University Press, 2005), 21–33, and is reproduced here, with cosmetic editing, with <strong>the</strong><br />

permission <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> publisher and <strong>the</strong> Center.<br />

René Descartes, Discours de la Méthode [1637] (Paris: Larousse, 1934), 21–23.

44 Robert N. Bellah<br />

dictator Nicolae Ceau escu actually did pull down much <strong>of</strong>old Bucharest and<br />

erect “orderly” buildings in its place, with aresult that was not charming atall.)<br />

<strong>The</strong>n Descartes makesaneven more remarkable move. He regrets that during<strong>the</strong><br />

early years <strong>of</strong> his life, his mind was filled with opinions, stories, and baseless information,<br />

entirely unexamined by reason, and he wishes that he might have been<br />

born at <strong>the</strong> age <strong>of</strong> twenty with his mind unclutteredbysomuch useless material. I<br />

do not even want to think <strong>of</strong> what kind <strong>of</strong> monster an unsocialized infant <strong>of</strong> twenty<br />

might be!<br />

So let me sayright<strong>of</strong>f that although everyimaginable criticism <strong>of</strong> institutions,<br />

including <strong>the</strong> institutions <strong>of</strong> marriage and <strong>the</strong> family, has some basis, without institutionswewould<br />

not be free – we would be dead. In every aspect <strong>of</strong> our lives, we<br />

depend on <strong>the</strong> relationships that institutions make possible. This is not in <strong>the</strong><br />

least to say that <strong>the</strong>y are perfect or that <strong>the</strong>y do not need continuous reform and<br />

improvement; only that doing away with <strong>the</strong>m altoge<strong>the</strong>r is amonstrousidea, as<br />

attested by <strong>the</strong> actions <strong>of</strong> those in <strong>the</strong> twentieth centurywho have tried it, such as<br />

Ceau escu and Pol Pot, though Ithink some <strong>of</strong> our rational-choice <strong>the</strong>orists are, in<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir own way, trying to do something quite similar.<br />

Aristotle can help us understand why Descartes’swish to be born at <strong>the</strong> age <strong>of</strong><br />

twenty is not agood idea ei<strong>the</strong>r. For Aristotle,habitisanimportant starting point.<br />

In his Ethics,virtue – his fundamental ethical term – is, he says, ahabit (in Greek a<br />

hexis), that is, a “formed state <strong>of</strong> character” which is in control <strong>of</strong> our emotions. 3<br />

We are judged, <strong>the</strong>refore, not by our emotions but by <strong>the</strong> settled dispositions, <strong>the</strong><br />

habits, which control our emotions. Aristotledraws from this definition aconclusion<br />

that may surprise us or even <strong>of</strong>fend us: he says that <strong>the</strong> young are not fit<br />

students for ethical philosophy, for <strong>the</strong>y are too apttobeled by <strong>the</strong>ir feelings, and<br />

<strong>the</strong>y have not yet developed <strong>the</strong> habits which would allow <strong>the</strong>m to appreciate ethical<br />

reflection. Ethics, as he says, is, after all, not an exact science, and its object is<br />

not knowledge but action. 4 So bright young people might well studymodern moral<br />

philosophy – Kant’s categorical imperative,for example, or Bentham’s greatest<br />

good <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> greatest number – for <strong>the</strong>se are purely <strong>the</strong>oretical ideas, and <strong>the</strong><br />

young can be quite good at <strong>the</strong>ory. But little good it would do <strong>the</strong>m ethically, Aristotle<br />

would say, if <strong>the</strong>y do not already have<strong>the</strong> habits required for living an ethical<br />

life.<br />

Of course, Aristotleisquick to add, <strong>the</strong> matter is not one <strong>of</strong> chronological age,<br />

for <strong>the</strong>re are some who are forever too “young” to understand ethics, and some<br />

relatively young people might already have acquired virtuous habits. Still, it is<br />

worth considering <strong>the</strong> fact that Aristotle, who wrote voluminous critical treatises<br />

on just abouteverythingand was willing to discourse at great length on all man-<br />

3<br />

4<br />

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, trans. Martin Oswald (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill,<br />

1962), 1105b–1106a.<br />

Ibid., 1095a.

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Family</strong> in <strong>the</strong> Matrix <strong>of</strong> Habit and History 45<br />

ner <strong>of</strong> ethical problems,beginsnot with talk but with habit, and says in effect that<br />

without habit, talk about ethics is worthless. What is shocking to us about this is<br />

that Aristotle seems to be overriding individual freedom – worse yet, <strong>the</strong> individual<br />

freedom <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> young – and insisting in an utterlyauthoritarian manner that<br />

he will not even teach <strong>the</strong>m about ethics until <strong>the</strong>y have learned proper habits.<br />

Socrates famously questioned whe<strong>the</strong>r it is possible to teach virtue, and Aristotle’sargument<br />

here helps us understand why. Philosophical teaching is, after<br />

all, always amatter <strong>of</strong> discursive, analytical talk. Habit is clearlysomething else.<br />

What is that something else?Tounderstand <strong>the</strong> difference between <strong>the</strong>se two approaches,<br />

Iwant to turn to Mary Douglas’s remarkable book Natural Symbols,<br />

which Ihavereread carefully several times in my life, each time withincreasing<br />

pr<strong>of</strong>it. 5 Douglas takes some interesting observations <strong>of</strong> Basil Bernstein’s about<br />

London families in <strong>the</strong> mid-twentieth century and uses <strong>the</strong>m to construct ageneral<br />

<strong>the</strong>ory <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> relation between social control and symbolic codes, a<strong>the</strong>ory that<br />

Ithink sheds agreat deal <strong>of</strong> light on our problem <strong>of</strong> habit and <strong>the</strong> relation <strong>of</strong> habits<br />

to institutions. Bernstein noted that <strong>the</strong>rewere two ra<strong>the</strong>r different forms <strong>of</strong> family<br />

in his sample and that <strong>the</strong>se two forms differed by class. Working-class families<br />

used what he called positional control systems and restricted speech codes,<br />

while middle-class families used personal control systems and elaborated speech<br />

codes. Because <strong>the</strong> word “restricted” is invidious in away that Ithink nei<strong>the</strong>r<br />

Bernstein nor Douglas intends, Iwill henceforth speak<strong>of</strong> “condensed” ra<strong>the</strong>r than<br />

“restricted” speech codes in contrast to elaborated ones, and will make this terminological<br />

change even when quoting <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

Douglas describes <strong>the</strong> condensed speech code that is generated in <strong>the</strong> positional<br />

family:<br />

<strong>The</strong> child in this family is controlled by <strong>the</strong> continual building up <strong>of</strong> asense <strong>of</strong> social<br />

pattern: <strong>of</strong> ascribed role categories. If he asks “Why must Idothis?” <strong>the</strong> answer is in<br />

terms <strong>of</strong> relative position. Because Isaid so (hierarchy). Because you are aboy (sex<br />

role). Because children always do (age status). Because you are <strong>the</strong> oldest (seniority).<br />

As he grows, his experience flows into agrid <strong>of</strong> role categories; right and wrong are<br />

learnt in terms <strong>of</strong> given structure; he himself is seen only in relation to that structure. 6<br />

Douglas notes that this pattern can be found in some aristocratic as well as working-class<br />

families. In any case,what Iwant to emphasize is that condensedcode is<br />

based on <strong>the</strong> taken-for-grantedness <strong>of</strong> institutions: that is what it means to call it<br />

positional. <strong>The</strong>re is areal social world <strong>the</strong>re, and we understand each o<strong>the</strong>r and<br />

ourselves only in relation to it.<br />

5<br />

6<br />

Mary Douglas, Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology (London: Barrie and Jenkins,<br />

1973).<br />

Ibid., 24.

46 Robert N. Bellah<br />

Douglas <strong>the</strong>n describes <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r form:<br />

By contrast, in <strong>the</strong> family system which Pr<strong>of</strong>essor Bernstein calls personal afixed pattern<br />

<strong>of</strong> roles is not celebrated, but ra<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> autonomy and unique value <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> individual.<br />

When <strong>the</strong> child asks aquestion <strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r feels bound to answer it by as full<br />

an explanation as she knows. <strong>The</strong> curiosity <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> child is used to increase his verbal<br />

control, to elucidate causal relations, to teach him to assess <strong>the</strong> consequences <strong>of</strong> his<br />

acts. Above all his behaviour is made sensitive to <strong>the</strong> personal feelings <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs, by<br />

inspecting his own feelings. Why can’tIdo it?Because your fa<strong>the</strong>r’sfeeling worried;<br />

because Ihave got aheadache. How would you like it if you were adog?<br />

Douglas quotes Bernstein to <strong>the</strong> effect that in <strong>the</strong> middle-class family, <strong>the</strong> child is<br />

being regulated by <strong>the</strong> feelings <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> regulator: “‘Daddy will be pleased, hurt, disappointed,<br />

angry, ecstatic if you go on doing this.’ …Control is effected through<br />

ei<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> verbalmanipulation <strong>of</strong> feelings or through <strong>the</strong> establishment <strong>of</strong> reasons<br />

which link <strong>the</strong> child to his acts.” 7<br />

But let me back up astep with an example. Afriend <strong>of</strong> mine was waiting for an<br />

elevator in his apartmentbuilding and overheard aconversationbetween amo<strong>the</strong>r<br />

and asmall child. <strong>The</strong> child was whining about something or o<strong>the</strong>r most persistently,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r was calmly and extensively explaining why <strong>the</strong> child<br />

could not have what she wanted. <strong>The</strong> child persisted with rising whiny tones, and<br />

<strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r continuedtoreiterate all <strong>the</strong> reasons why not. My friend was becoming<br />

increasingly uncomfortable with this apparently interminable palaver when<br />

<strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r finally said quite firmly and briefly: “Because I’m <strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r and<br />

you’re <strong>the</strong> child, that’s why.” What this mo<strong>the</strong>r had done was to shift ra<strong>the</strong>r<br />

abruptly from <strong>the</strong> elaborated code to <strong>the</strong> condensed code.This example suggests<br />

that Bernstein’stwo codes are not mutually exclusive,and that all <strong>of</strong> us use both <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong>m at least some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> time.<br />

Let me use this example to link back <strong>the</strong> two codes to <strong>the</strong> idea <strong>of</strong> institutions.<br />

Condensed code is always institutionally rooted. When <strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>rfinally invokes<br />

<strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r-child relation, she is invoking awhole institutional context, aset <strong>of</strong><br />

habits if you will, that requires parents to care for children and childrentogrow<br />

up and flourish under that care. Elaborated code floats free from institutions and<br />

is rooted more in <strong>the</strong> ideas and feelings <strong>of</strong> individuals. It may be used to criticize<br />

institutions, but it can never float entirely free <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m, for it takes <strong>the</strong>m for granted<br />

as <strong>the</strong> very basis from which criticism is possible.<br />

Iwould arguefor <strong>the</strong> priority <strong>of</strong> institutions, and <strong>the</strong> condensed code that expresses<br />

<strong>the</strong>m, in part because no one ever starts with <strong>the</strong> elaborated code. All children<br />

begin with positional control and <strong>the</strong> condensedlanguage code because personal<br />

control and <strong>the</strong> elaborated code require skills that no newborn has. <strong>The</strong><br />

7<br />

Ibid., 26.

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Family</strong> in <strong>the</strong> Matrix <strong>of</strong> Habit and History 47<br />

relation between mo<strong>the</strong>r and child, or perhaps we should better saybetween parent<br />

and child, is necessarily positional – that is, institutional – because highly<br />

asymmetrical: an infant needs to be held, cared for, talked to, or sung to but cannot<br />

be addressed with elaborate appeals to feelings or reasons, at least not for<br />

quite awhile. In fact, interaction with an infant looks suspiciously like habit or<br />

its close relation, ritual. Linguists have discovered that in all cultures, parents<br />

speak to infants in something <strong>the</strong>y call “mo<strong>the</strong>rese,” akind <strong>of</strong> simplified, highly<br />

repetitive, singsong, partly nonsense kind <strong>of</strong> language, one that communicates<br />

feeling ra<strong>the</strong>r than information. Each languagehas its own version <strong>of</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>rese,<br />

to be sure, but <strong>the</strong> basic characteristics seem to be universal.Nonverbal communication<br />

with an infant is probably even more important. Erik Erikson suggested<br />

that <strong>the</strong> “greeting ceremonial” between mo<strong>the</strong>r and child, marking <strong>the</strong> beginning<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> infant’s day, is <strong>the</strong> root <strong>of</strong> all subsequent ritualization. 8<br />

Infants become human because <strong>of</strong> habitual, nondiscursive, verbal, and nonverbal<br />

interaction with adults, which is, in Basil Bernstein’s terms, necessarily<br />

positional in control and condensed inspeech code. <strong>The</strong> function <strong>of</strong>this kind <strong>of</strong><br />

interaction is to position children, to give <strong>the</strong>m an identity relative to o<strong>the</strong>rs, to<br />

provide <strong>the</strong>m asocial, an institutional, location.<br />

So far, Ihave been trying to insist, because <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> low esteem we have <strong>the</strong>se<br />

days for thingslike habit and ritual, let alone institutions, that positional control<br />

and condensed code are ra<strong>the</strong>r basic to our humanity and cannot really be dispensed<br />

with. So why did we <strong>the</strong>n develop personal control and <strong>the</strong> elaborated<br />

code?Incontemporary society, Douglaslinks <strong>the</strong>m to <strong>the</strong> division <strong>of</strong> labor, which<br />

differentially impacts working-class and middle-class families:<br />

It is essential to realize that <strong>the</strong> elaborated code is aproduct <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> division <strong>of</strong> labour.<br />

<strong>The</strong> more highly differentiated <strong>the</strong> social system, <strong>the</strong> more specialised <strong>the</strong> decisionmaking<br />

roles – <strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong> more <strong>the</strong> pressure for explicit channels <strong>of</strong> communication<br />

concerning awide range <strong>of</strong> policies and <strong>the</strong>ir consequences. <strong>The</strong> demands <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> industrial<br />

system are pressing hard now upon education to produce more and more verbally<br />

articulate people who will be promoted to entrepreneurial roles. By inference <strong>the</strong><br />

condensed code will be found where <strong>the</strong>se pressures are weakest [that is to say among<br />

people whose jobs are both routine and require little verbal facility]. 9<br />

Although Douglas finds <strong>the</strong> social basis for positional control and condensed code<br />

in some modern pr<strong>of</strong>essions – <strong>the</strong> military, for example – most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> pr<strong>of</strong>essions<br />

that increasingly dominate <strong>the</strong> higher echelons <strong>of</strong> our occupationalworld require<br />

people well versed inpersonal control and elaborated speech. <strong>The</strong> symbolic an-<br />

8<br />

9<br />

Erik H. Erikson, “<strong>The</strong> Development <strong>of</strong> Ritualization,” in <strong>The</strong> Religious Situation 1968,ed.<br />

Donald R. Cutler (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), 711–33.<br />

Douglas, Natural Symbols, 21.

48 Robert N. Bellah<br />

alysts, as Robert Reich characterizes our top pr<strong>of</strong>essionals, are critical by <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

very job description. Douglas characterizes <strong>the</strong>m asfollows:<br />

Here are <strong>the</strong> people who live by using elaborated speech to review and revise existing<br />

categories <strong>of</strong> thought. To challenge received ideas is <strong>the</strong>ir very bread and butter. <strong>The</strong>y<br />

(or should Isay we?) practise apr<strong>of</strong>essional detachment toward any given pattern <strong>of</strong><br />

experience. <strong>The</strong> more boldly and comprehensively <strong>the</strong>y apply <strong>the</strong>ir minds to rethinking,<br />

<strong>the</strong> better <strong>the</strong>ir chances <strong>of</strong> pr<strong>of</strong>essional success. Thus <strong>the</strong> value <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir radical<br />

habit <strong>of</strong> thought is socially confirmed, and reinforced. For with <strong>the</strong> rise to pr<strong>of</strong>essional<br />

eminence comes <strong>the</strong> geographical and social mobility that detaches <strong>the</strong>m from <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

original community. With such validation, <strong>the</strong>y are likely to raise <strong>the</strong>ir children in <strong>the</strong><br />

habit <strong>of</strong> intellectual challenge and not to impose apositional control pattern.<br />

Indeed, she goes on to say, <strong>the</strong>y are likely to prefer personal forms <strong>of</strong> control and<br />

to focus on feelings ra<strong>the</strong>r than rules in child-rearing. As aresult, “ideas about<br />

morality and <strong>the</strong> self get detached from <strong>the</strong> social structure.” 10 It is not that children<br />

raised in such amilieulack ethical ideas; sensitivity to <strong>the</strong> feelings <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs<br />

can arouse strong ethical passions when o<strong>the</strong>rs are observed to be suffering. <strong>The</strong><br />

problem is that without some positional sense <strong>of</strong> institutional membership and<br />

without strong condensed symbols, ethical sensitivities may simply dissipate into<br />

good intentions without leading to sustained moral commitments.<br />

Douglas is very even-handed in her sense that we need both modes <strong>of</strong> relating.<br />

She affirms “<strong>the</strong> duty <strong>of</strong> everyone to preserve <strong>the</strong>irvision from <strong>the</strong> constraints <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> condensed code when judging any social situation. … [W]e must recognise<br />

that <strong>the</strong> value <strong>of</strong> particular social forms can only be judged objectively by <strong>the</strong> analytic<br />

power <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> elaborated code.” 11 She is well aware that condensed codes in<br />

<strong>the</strong> context <strong>of</strong> institutional authority can be bothauthoritarian and unjust. “Do it<br />

because Isaid so” is an example <strong>of</strong> condensed code that carries <strong>the</strong> implication <strong>of</strong><br />

some, perhaps quite unpleasant, nonverbal sanction that will follow if <strong>the</strong> recipient<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> command rejects it. Except under conditions <strong>of</strong> extreme emergency,an<br />

elaborated request for reasons is justified. Similarly, <strong>the</strong> condensed statement<br />

“Little girls don’t dothat” is open to challenge with respect to<strong>the</strong> whole takenfor-granted<br />

definition <strong>of</strong> gender. <strong>The</strong>se are <strong>the</strong> kinds <strong>of</strong>reflection that lead “us”<br />

to presume that personal control and elaborated code are always preferable to <strong>the</strong><br />

alternative. Yet Douglas warns us against precisely that conclusion:<br />

<strong>The</strong>re is no person whose life does not need to unfold in acoherent symbolic system.<br />

<strong>The</strong> less organized <strong>the</strong> way <strong>of</strong> life, <strong>the</strong> less articulated <strong>the</strong> symbolic system may be. But<br />

social responsibility is no substitute for symbolic forms and indeed depends upon<br />

10<br />

11<br />

Ibid., 31.<br />

Ibid., 166.

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Family</strong> in <strong>the</strong> Matrix <strong>of</strong> Habit and History 49<br />

<strong>the</strong>m. When ritualism is openly despised <strong>the</strong> philanthropic impulse is in danger <strong>of</strong><br />

defeating itself. For it is an illusion to suppose that <strong>the</strong>re can be organisation without<br />

symbolic expression. … Those who despise ritual, even at its most magical, are cherishing<br />

in <strong>the</strong> name <strong>of</strong> reason avery irrational concept <strong>of</strong> communication. 12<br />

So where does Douglasleave us, including her?She is not asking us, as some converts<br />

to various forms <strong>of</strong> fundamentalism are, to abandon our personal and elaborated<br />

selves and jump back into <strong>the</strong> positional box. No, she is asking us with all<br />

our critical rationality to see that we need both forms <strong>of</strong> control and both codes.<br />

She writes:<br />

In <strong>the</strong> long run, <strong>the</strong> argument <strong>of</strong> this book is that <strong>the</strong> elaborated code challenges its<br />

users to turn round on <strong>the</strong>mselves and inspect <strong>the</strong>ir values, to reject some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m, and<br />

to resolve to cherish positional forms <strong>of</strong> control and communication wherever <strong>the</strong>se<br />

are available. … No one would deliberately choose <strong>the</strong> elaborated code and <strong>the</strong> personal<br />

control system who is aware <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> seeds <strong>of</strong> alienation it contains. 13<br />

But <strong>the</strong> question remains, in what sense can we, products <strong>of</strong> personal families and<br />

modern educational and occupational systems, “deliberately choose” aspects <strong>of</strong><br />

positional control and condensedcode?Iwill argue that some dialectic, some complementarity,<br />

must be sought, because giving upei<strong>the</strong>r alternative would exact<br />

too high aprice. Ithink we know <strong>the</strong> price <strong>of</strong> going back into <strong>the</strong> box <strong>of</strong> some kind<br />

<strong>of</strong> closed traditionalism. Can we explore fur<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> implications <strong>of</strong> Douglas’s<br />

warning about trying to live in <strong>the</strong> elaborated code alone?<br />

If we see that trying to live in <strong>the</strong> elaborated code alone would mean that we<br />

would have to make up our lives as we go along, that we could take nothing for<br />

granted – because we would havenoinstitutional context to tell us where we are –<br />

we can begin to see that it is not only undesirable but impossible. Douglas’s dichotomy<br />

may be too stark, for even <strong>the</strong> citadel <strong>of</strong> criticalreason, <strong>the</strong> modern university,<br />

is an institution, with <strong>the</strong> habits and rituals that institutions always entail.<br />

What Idid in delivering this paper, giving alecture, is aritual, one we are so habituated<br />

to that we hardly recognize it as aritual, even though it is afairly complex<br />

one.<br />

But, we might ask, are not some institutions in modern society based entirely<br />

on elaborated codes – are <strong>the</strong>y not purely rational?Economic institutions, for example?<br />

Yet, in recent years, economists have been rediscovering what was once<br />

called institutional economics. <strong>The</strong> economist Ge<strong>of</strong>frey Hodgson suggests why institutions<br />

are as essential in <strong>the</strong> economy as anywhere else in our social life:<br />

12<br />

13<br />

Ibid., 50.<br />

Ibid., 157.

Part Two:<br />

<strong>The</strong> Role <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> in<br />

Child Development and<br />

Moral Character Formation

<strong>The</strong> Beginnings <strong>of</strong> Norm and Value<br />

Formation in Human Ontogeny and<br />

<strong>the</strong> Role <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong><br />

Sabina Pauen<br />

Most <strong>of</strong> us share <strong>the</strong> intuition that family life shapes <strong>the</strong> basic norms and values<br />

that guide our social behavior as adults. At <strong>the</strong> same time, we should not forget<br />

that young children face hugevariability in socialstandards.For example, different<br />

rules apply at home, in school, and on <strong>the</strong> playground. Within<strong>the</strong> family, caregivers<br />

may promote diverging values and standards. <strong>The</strong>y may tolerate certain<br />

behaviors in infants but not in older siblings, and <strong>the</strong>y may be less strict on holidays<br />

than during<strong>the</strong> week. And children may meet different standards when interacting<br />

with <strong>the</strong>ir siblings or o<strong>the</strong>r peers than when interacting with <strong>the</strong>ir parents<br />

or o<strong>the</strong>r adults. How do children cope with this complexity? How do <strong>the</strong>y<br />

find out which values or norms apply independent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> social setting and which<br />

are context- or situation-specific?This chapter addresses <strong>the</strong>se questions by taking<br />

acloser look at <strong>the</strong> mechanisms that guide social learning throughout early<br />

childhood and reflectingupon <strong>the</strong> role that families play in developing norms and<br />

values.<br />

Infancy<br />

Establishing Social Relatedness and Forming Basic Trust<br />

Humans are social beings who need <strong>the</strong> presence <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rpeople in order to survive<br />

– at least during <strong>the</strong> first years<strong>of</strong>life. 1 Only if infants experience that o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

people take care <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir physical and psychological needs will <strong>the</strong>y appreciate<br />

social bonds and become motivated to learn about <strong>the</strong> norms and values <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

community <strong>the</strong>y are growing upin.<br />

1<br />

R. Spitz, “Hospitalism: An Inquiry into <strong>the</strong> Genesis <strong>of</strong> Psychiatric Conditions in Early<br />

Childhood,” in <strong>The</strong> Psychoanalytic Study <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Child,vol. 1, ed. O. Fenichel, P. Greenacre,<br />

and H. Harmann (New York: International Universities Press, 1945).

60 Sabina Pauen<br />

Infants communicate <strong>the</strong>ir needs via facial expressions, vocal sounds, body<br />

movements, and gestures. Evolution prepared human caregivers to decode <strong>the</strong>se<br />

signals properly and to respond to <strong>the</strong>madequately. 2 Even without any previous<br />

experience, we can distinguish acry <strong>of</strong> pain from acry <strong>of</strong> hunger. Whenever we<br />

hear acorresponding sound, stress hormones are released, and we typically feel<br />

<strong>the</strong> urge to approach <strong>the</strong> baby and to establish bodily contact. We will rock <strong>the</strong><br />

baby gently, speak slowly with many repetitions and in amelodicfriendly voice,<br />

while keeping close face-to-face contact and exploring potential reasons for discomfort.<br />

All <strong>the</strong>se activities belong toour natural and universal behavioral repertoire,<br />

called intuitive parenting. Even our hormone system is designed to experience<br />

positive exchanges with ababy as highly rewarding. 3 Hence, we come<br />

equipped with <strong>the</strong> ability to take care <strong>of</strong> human infants and to relate to <strong>the</strong>m socially.<br />

Sensitivity to infants’ signals, as well as reliability, consistency, and appropriateness<br />

<strong>of</strong> responses, characterize caregiving behavior that supports bonding<br />

– <strong>the</strong> nucleus<strong>of</strong>socialrelatedness. 4 Breastfeeding plays akey role in this context,<br />

as it nurtures <strong>the</strong> baby in multiple ways, providing not only food but also skin<br />

contact and social exchange. Importantly, bonding is not restricted to <strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r<br />

or biological family members. <strong>The</strong> number<strong>of</strong>peopletobond with may be limited<br />

because young children still have difficulties recognizing individuals. None<strong>the</strong>less,<br />

it should be noted that any person who spends time with ababy can become<br />

abonding partner. Parents, siblings, and neighbors can play this role equally<br />

well. If only one or two people spend time with <strong>the</strong> baby, he or she will develop<br />

astrong bond with <strong>the</strong>se individuals but remainskeptical when meeting nonfamily<br />

members. If multiple caregivers serve as bonding partners (for example, when<br />

achild is raised in alarge family or spends time in ahigh-quality day care setting<br />

with stability in caregivers), basic trust is likely to generalize more broadly.<br />

It is not only <strong>the</strong> durationand frequency <strong>of</strong> contactbut also <strong>the</strong> quality <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

relational experience that counts when it comes tobonding: neglect or negative<br />

caregiving (involving passive, hostile, or aggressive behaviors as well as inconsistent<br />

and inappropriate handling) can prevent <strong>the</strong> child from developing basic<br />

trust. We know that <strong>the</strong> first year is critical for this development. Children who<br />

do not receive appropriate care during<strong>the</strong> first few months <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir life are likely<br />

to show impaired brain development and behavioral problems later in life, no<br />

2<br />

3<br />

4<br />

H. Papou⇥ek and M. Papou⇥ek, “Intuitive Parenting,” in Handbook <strong>of</strong> Parenting, Vol. 2,<br />

Biology and Ecology <strong>of</strong> Parenting, ed. M. H. Bornstein (Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum<br />

Associates, 1995), 117–36.<br />

R. Feldman and M. J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, “Oxytocin: AParenting Hormone,” Current<br />

Opinions in Psychology 15 (2017): 13–18, doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.02.011.<br />

J. Bowlby, Maternal Care and Mental Health,World Health Organization Monograph, Serial<br />

No. 2(Geneva: WHO, 1951).

<strong>The</strong> Beginnings <strong>of</strong> Norm and Value Formation in Human Ontogeny 61<br />

matter how well <strong>the</strong>y are treated afterwards. 5 Bonding teaches <strong>the</strong> child its first<br />

main lesson regarding human values: “We are taking care <strong>of</strong> one ano<strong>the</strong>r,” and “I<br />

am being loved.” Without this basic insight, <strong>the</strong> openness to share norms, rituals,<br />

customs, and values with fellow human beings and <strong>the</strong> development <strong>of</strong> prosocial<br />

behavior are likely to be limited. Individuals who do not have <strong>the</strong> chance to develop<br />

basic trust may also show inappropriate behavior when interacting with<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir own <strong>of</strong>fspring later in life, simply because <strong>the</strong>ir intuitive parenting skills<br />

got overruled by bad experiences during early childhood.<br />

In sum, we can conclude that multiple caregivers who (a) are in contact with<br />

<strong>the</strong> child on aregular basis for longer periods <strong>of</strong> time during<strong>the</strong> day, (b) <strong>of</strong>fer <strong>the</strong><br />

child predictability in terms <strong>of</strong> when and how <strong>the</strong>y are emotionally available, and<br />

(c) respond reliably, appropriately, and warmly to <strong>the</strong> needs<strong>of</strong><strong>the</strong> infant provide<br />

<strong>the</strong> best conditions for developing basic trust. In positive interactions, <strong>the</strong> child<br />

can learn how to communicate and understand his or her own needs, intentions,<br />

and feelings. This understanding isaprerequisite for sharing values and norms<br />

with o<strong>the</strong>rs. In that respect, well-functioning families combined with high-quality<br />

day care provide an ideal environment to acquire basic trust and to promote social<br />

relatedness.<br />

Understanding Intentions and Distinguishing between Good and<br />

Bad Behavior<br />

Modern infant research suggests that we are all born with an intentional stance. 6<br />

This meansthat we interpret <strong>the</strong> behavior <strong>of</strong> humans and animals as beinggoaldirected<br />

and driven by intentions. When observing <strong>the</strong> behavior <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rpeople,<br />

infants automatically try to understand <strong>the</strong> motivation <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> actions <strong>the</strong>y perceive.<br />

This is important for becoming aware <strong>of</strong> social rules.<br />

Babies as young as threetosix months <strong>of</strong> age have been found to distinguish<br />

alreadybetween actions that are friendly and those that are hostile, thussuggesting<br />

that we may be born with some general standards for evaluating human behavior.<br />

To demonstrate this, Karen Wynn and Paul Bloom 7 ran <strong>the</strong> following experimentwith<br />

five-month-old infants.Three hand puppets were interacting on a<br />

small stage. Puppet Atried to open abox. While puppet Bkeptjumping on <strong>the</strong> lid,<br />

5<br />

6<br />

7<br />

C. A. Nelson, N. A. Fox, and C. H. Zeanah, Romania′s Abandoned Children: Deprivation,<br />

Brain Development, and <strong>the</strong> Struggle for Recovery (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University<br />

Press, 2014).<br />

G. Gergely et al., “Taking <strong>the</strong> Intentional Stance at 12 Months <strong>of</strong> Age,” Cognition 56, no. 2<br />

(1995): 165–93, https://doi.org/10.1016/0010–0277(95)00661-H.<br />

K. Wynn and P. Bloom, “<strong>The</strong> Moral Baby,” in Handbook <strong>of</strong> Moral Development,ed. M. Killen<br />

and J. G. Smetana (New York: Psychology Press, 2014), 435–53.

62 Sabina Pauen<br />

thus hindering puppet Afrom opening it, puppet Csupported puppet Ainpushing<br />

<strong>the</strong> lid upward. Followingthis scene, infants were shown puppets Band C. An<br />

analysis <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir viewing time revealed that <strong>the</strong>y preferred to look at puppet C(<strong>the</strong><br />

helper); fur<strong>the</strong>rmore, <strong>the</strong>y were more willing to share areward with this puppet<br />

than with puppet B(<strong>the</strong> hinderer). In afur<strong>the</strong>r step, puppets Band Ceach tried to<br />

open <strong>the</strong> box <strong>the</strong>mselves, and two new charactersserved as helper or hinderer in<br />

each case.Now, infants preferred to see puppet Bbeing punished by ahinderer,<br />

and puppet Cbeing rewarded by ahelper (as evidenced by acorresponding viewing<br />

preference for <strong>the</strong> puppet playing each role). Infants less than half ayear <strong>of</strong><br />

age thus developed ageneral attitude toward puppets based on how each behaved<br />

in asituation. Infants not only liked <strong>the</strong> helper more than <strong>the</strong> hinderer but also<br />

preferred to see <strong>the</strong> helper being rewarded and <strong>the</strong> hinderer being punished socially.<br />

Today, developmental psychologists discuss whe<strong>the</strong>r infants are born with<br />

<strong>the</strong> ability to distinguish between bad (antisocial) and good (prosocial)behavior,<br />

with some expectation that each type <strong>of</strong> behavior should lead to different social<br />

responses.<br />

This distinction between prosocial and antisocial behavior can be streng<strong>the</strong>ned<br />

or weakened through observational learning. Reward and punishment do<br />

not need to be experienced personally but are equally effective when <strong>the</strong> child<br />

observes someone else being rewarded or punished, as in <strong>the</strong> puppet study. In<br />

fact, observational learning may sometimes be even more effective, as <strong>the</strong> child<br />

is not directly involved in <strong>the</strong> given situation and has free mental capacity to think<br />

about <strong>the</strong> event. If young children repeatedly observe that antisocial behavior is<br />

being rewarded, <strong>the</strong>y adapt to <strong>the</strong>se standards and learn that it is socially acceptable<br />

to behave this way. But if young children repeatedly see that o<strong>the</strong>r people<br />

disapprove <strong>of</strong> antisocial behavior, <strong>the</strong>y will infer that acting in similar ways is<br />

likely to have negative consequences. Developmental research thus suggests that<br />

infants expect people to be held responsible for <strong>the</strong>ir actions toward o<strong>the</strong>rs. Observational<br />

learning will lead <strong>the</strong>m ei<strong>the</strong>r to streng<strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong>ir apriori beliefsorto<br />

revise <strong>the</strong>m and adapt to new standards.<br />

As this type <strong>of</strong> learning takes place very early in life, when children still<br />

spend most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir time at home, we can assume that <strong>the</strong> way family members<br />

interact has ahugeimpact on <strong>the</strong> development <strong>of</strong> abasic understanding <strong>of</strong> values<br />

and norms. Importantly, it is not only <strong>the</strong> behavior toward <strong>the</strong> child that affects<br />

this development but also <strong>the</strong> exchange between o<strong>the</strong>r family members (that is,<br />

between caregivers, between siblings) that shapes children’svalue and norm system.

<strong>The</strong> Beginnings <strong>of</strong> Norm and Value Formation in Human Ontogeny 63<br />

Sharing Emotions and Evaluations with O<strong>the</strong>rs<br />

Young infants are able to feel with o<strong>the</strong>rs, aphenomenon called emotional contagion.<br />

Adults show emotional contagion, for instance, when identifying with <strong>the</strong><br />

protagonist <strong>of</strong> amovie. This type <strong>of</strong> emotional identification with ano<strong>the</strong>r person<br />

may also help to explain <strong>the</strong> evaluative response <strong>of</strong> infants in <strong>the</strong> puppet study<br />

mentioned above. When <strong>the</strong> baby watches puppet Atrying to open <strong>the</strong> box, she<br />

identifies with this puppet and thus “feels” how it would feel to be treated ina<br />

hostile way by puppet Borinafriendly way by puppet C.<br />

Ra<strong>the</strong>r than simply crying with someonewho is in tears, we might also try to<br />

understand <strong>the</strong> potential reasons for that person’s emotion as away <strong>of</strong> seeing<br />

what <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r person actually needs. If sadness is <strong>the</strong> reason for crying, we might<br />

provide consolation; if pain leads to tears, we might look foradoctor or medicine;<br />

if anger or frustration motivates <strong>the</strong> emotional expression, we might try to help<br />

reevaluate <strong>the</strong> situation. Empathy differs from emotional contagion in that it includes<br />

thoughts about <strong>the</strong> potential reasons for<strong>the</strong> emotions observed, and it results<br />

in behavior that aims at supporting o<strong>the</strong>rs ra<strong>the</strong>r than just sharing <strong>the</strong>irfeelings.<br />

Infants are not yet capable <strong>of</strong> empathy because <strong>the</strong>y still lack <strong>the</strong> ability to<br />

represent <strong>the</strong> mental state <strong>of</strong> someone else. But even before <strong>the</strong>ir first birthday,<br />

<strong>the</strong>y attain an important skill that serves as aprerequisite for developing empathy.<br />

It all starts with following <strong>the</strong> attentional focus <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r people bytrying to<br />

figure out where <strong>the</strong>y look or what <strong>the</strong>y point to. Whereas young infants can focus<br />

only on ei<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> person who is pointing or on <strong>the</strong> target pointed at, nine-totwelve-month-olds<br />

are able to keep in mind both aspects in parallel. This is called<br />

joint attention. 8 Joint attention marks avery important milestoneinsociocognitive<br />

development, as it reflects <strong>the</strong> achievement <strong>of</strong> sharing amind state withsomeone<br />

else. At around <strong>the</strong> same time that infants acquire joint attention, <strong>the</strong>y also begin<br />

to show social and emotional referencing: when <strong>the</strong> child is toge<strong>the</strong>r with his mo<strong>the</strong>r,<br />

and astranger enters <strong>the</strong> room, <strong>the</strong> child might look at his or her mo<strong>the</strong>r to see<br />

how she responds emotionally. If <strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r staysrelaxed and in apositive mood,<br />

<strong>the</strong> child is more likely to show approach behavior, but if <strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r feels tense<br />

and reveals anegative expression, <strong>the</strong> infant is more likely to withdraw. Similarly,<br />

we can <strong>of</strong>ten observe that achild who starts to do something that is clearly<br />

forbidden (for example, picking up his fa<strong>the</strong>r’s mobile phone) first looks to his<br />

caregiver’sface to see whe<strong>the</strong>r he can risk going ahead without receiving aclear<br />

stop signal. By one year <strong>of</strong> age, infants are capable <strong>of</strong> sharing mental states and<br />

social-emotional evaluations with <strong>the</strong>ir bonding partners. This is essential for<br />

transmission <strong>of</strong> values and norms.<br />

8<br />

M. Tomasello, Becoming Human (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019).

64 Sabina Pauen<br />

If atrusted caregiveracts in aprosocial way toward someoneelse, this elicits<br />

positive feelings in <strong>the</strong> young child observing <strong>the</strong> scene, because <strong>the</strong> child identifies<br />

with<strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r person. But if <strong>the</strong> very same caregiver treats someone else in<br />

an antisocial way and <strong>the</strong> child does not understand why, <strong>the</strong> child is likely to<br />

experience aconflict between her natural tendencytocondemn antisocial actions<br />

and her basic trust that leads to emotional referencing. This conflict may result<br />

ei<strong>the</strong>r in weakening <strong>the</strong> bond between <strong>the</strong> caregiver and child or in identifying<br />

with <strong>the</strong> caregiverand responding in ahostile way toward <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r person. This<br />

example illustrates that bad role models can easily leadyoung childrentodevelop<br />

negative feelings toward o<strong>the</strong>r persons, even though those persons never behave<br />

in an antisocial way. Thus, being able to show emotional or social referencing is<br />

by no means aguarantee <strong>of</strong>developing prosocial behavior. Ra<strong>the</strong>r, we need to<br />

keep in mind that young children tend to refer to <strong>the</strong> emotional and social responses<strong>of</strong><strong>the</strong>ir<br />

caregivers, and that <strong>the</strong>y are likely to develop similar preferences<br />

and attitudes. Again, we can assume that family members are likely to serve as<br />

important reference figures in this regard.<br />

Toddlerhood<br />

Cooperation and Spontaneous Helping<br />

During <strong>the</strong>ir second year <strong>of</strong> life, childrenare no longer just recipients or observers<br />

<strong>of</strong> social actions but ra<strong>the</strong>r come to take amore active role in exchanges with o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

people. Simple give-and-take routines are well established already. By two years<br />

<strong>of</strong> age, children have also learned which behaviors elicit positive or negative responses<br />

in<strong>the</strong>ir caregiver. Basic trust and social relatedness will increase children’swillingness<br />

to please <strong>the</strong>ir caregiver. Being able to move around and to grasp<br />

objects, to show joint attention and to infer intentions from actions, toddlers now<br />

become prosocialin<strong>the</strong>iractions; <strong>the</strong>y may pick up an object accidently dropped<br />

by <strong>the</strong>ir caregiver, <strong>the</strong>y may help to get access to objects out <strong>of</strong> reach, or <strong>the</strong>y may<br />

open adoor for <strong>the</strong>ir parents if <strong>the</strong>y are carrying things and need afree hand. 9<br />

This is true <strong>of</strong> interactions not only with primary caregivers but also with o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

people.<br />

Recent studies demonstrate that spontaneous helping is more likely to occur<br />

when it is obvious to <strong>the</strong> child that ano<strong>the</strong>r person actually needs assistance. If <strong>the</strong><br />

o<strong>the</strong>r person lets an object drop on purpose, <strong>the</strong> child will not pick it up. If <strong>the</strong><br />

9<br />

F. Warneken and M. Tomasello, “<strong>The</strong> Developmental and Evolutionary Origins <strong>of</strong> Human<br />

Helping and Sharing,” in <strong>The</strong> Oxford Handbook <strong>of</strong> Prosocial Behavior,ed. D. A. Schroeder<br />

and W. G. Graziano (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/<br />


<strong>The</strong> Beginnings <strong>of</strong> Norm and Value Formation in Human Ontogeny 65<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r person can reach for agiven object without difficulty, <strong>the</strong> child will also hesitate<br />

to provide support. Hence, <strong>the</strong> helping behavior <strong>of</strong> toddlers results from a<br />

careful analysis <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> intentions and needs <strong>of</strong><strong>the</strong> interactive partner. However,<br />

caregivers <strong>of</strong>ten experiencesituations in which an explicit request for help is ignored<br />

by <strong>the</strong> child (especially when it comes to doing unpleasant things, like tidying<br />

up <strong>the</strong> room). Young toddlers engage in prosocial actions because <strong>the</strong>y want<br />

to affiliate and share positive feelings with o<strong>the</strong>rs, not because <strong>the</strong>y feel amoral<br />

call to help.<br />

Caregivers nurture <strong>the</strong> very beginnings <strong>of</strong> helping behavior most efficiently if<br />

<strong>the</strong>y (a) communicate <strong>the</strong>ir needs but do not expect <strong>the</strong> child to help, (b) give <strong>the</strong><br />

child <strong>the</strong> chance to infer <strong>the</strong> caregiver’sintentionsand to plan ahelping action by<br />

leaving some time before solving <strong>the</strong> problem on <strong>the</strong>ir own, (c) remain patient if<br />

<strong>the</strong> child’sattempt to help does not lead to immediate success, and (d) praise<strong>the</strong><br />

child for his or her engagement independent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> result. If parents observe attempts<br />

by atoddler to help asibling, <strong>the</strong>y should not intervenebut should reward<br />

<strong>the</strong> child for <strong>the</strong> effort. Pr<strong>of</strong>essional caregivers are trained to support <strong>the</strong> development<br />

<strong>of</strong> social helping behavior in young children. In preschool or kindergarten,<br />

young children frequently observe peers being praised for helping behavior,<br />

which fur<strong>the</strong>r increases <strong>the</strong>ir own motivation to behave accordingly.<br />

Dealing with Conflicts <strong>of</strong> Interest and Sharing Goods with O<strong>the</strong>rs<br />

<strong>The</strong> limitations <strong>of</strong> toddlers’ moral understanding also become evident in situations<br />

involving conflicts <strong>of</strong> interest. Just imagine sitting in asand pit with several<br />

two-to-three-year-old children. Toddlers easily become upset when someone takes<br />

away atoy, destroys something <strong>the</strong>y built, or hurts <strong>the</strong>m (even by accident). At <strong>the</strong><br />

same time, <strong>the</strong>y may not hesitate to show corresponding behavior toward playmates.<br />

It seems to be perfectly all right for two-to-three-year-olds toapply different<br />

standards to <strong>the</strong>mselves than to o<strong>the</strong>rs, as <strong>the</strong>y still need to develop asense <strong>of</strong><br />

justice that applies to everyone. Most toddlers,when asked to share sweets with<br />

playmates or siblings, will not split <strong>the</strong> treats evenly but will keep <strong>the</strong> larger proportion<br />

for <strong>the</strong>mselves. Alternatively, <strong>the</strong>y may also give away all <strong>of</strong> it – depending<br />

on what seems relevant to <strong>the</strong>m in <strong>the</strong> situation: to get as muchaspossible or<br />

to affiliate and make friends. Some children may <strong>of</strong>fer <strong>the</strong>ir toys to o<strong>the</strong>rs quite<br />

generously, while o<strong>the</strong>rs do not want to share <strong>the</strong>m at all. Children who do not feel<br />

aneed to make friends, or who fear not gettingenough, tend to be more defensive<br />

and less sharing, whereas children who enjoy being with peers and are very keen<br />

on affiliating with o<strong>the</strong>rs are typicallymore generous. It is important for caregivers<br />

to understand <strong>the</strong> motivation driving children’s behavior in such situations<br />

and to realize that it is quite demanding to find <strong>the</strong> right balance between defending<br />

one’s own interests and accepting <strong>the</strong> interests <strong>of</strong>o<strong>the</strong>rs. In any case, we

66 Sabina Pauen<br />

should keep in mind that toddlers do not evaluate <strong>the</strong>irown behavior according to<br />

<strong>the</strong> same standards as <strong>the</strong>y view <strong>the</strong> behavior <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs, and <strong>the</strong>y thus still lack a<br />

true sense <strong>of</strong> fairness.<br />

Within families,siblings <strong>of</strong>ten compete for resources like food, toys, or caregiver<br />

attention. This can be quite challenging for parents, but it also provides a<br />

great training environment for moral development. Agood way to deal with conflicts<br />

among siblings is to guard and guide <strong>the</strong> children. Explaining to young children<br />

why it is important to share, and praising <strong>the</strong>m for acting accordingly, will<br />

increase <strong>the</strong> likelihood <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>irshowingthis type <strong>of</strong> behavior.And demonstrating<br />

<strong>the</strong> same behavior will lead to positive interactive exchanges, promoting <strong>the</strong> insight<br />

that sharing has social benefits. Again, it seems important to note that children<br />

will closely observe how parents and siblings deal with situations that call<br />

for sharing, and that <strong>the</strong>se experiences will also contribute to <strong>the</strong>ir own understanding<br />

<strong>of</strong> values and norms.<br />

What It Takes to Develop aTrue Sense <strong>of</strong> Morality in Toddlerhood<br />

In order to develop atrue sense <strong>of</strong> fairness and moral understanding, young children<br />

need to develop self-regulation skills – especially impulse control. Impulse<br />

regulation leaves <strong>the</strong>m time for remembering social rules or becoming aware <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> needs <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir interactive partner before responding in agiven situation. Children<br />

also develop a concept <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> self,asthis allows <strong>the</strong>m to take an external perspective<br />

on <strong>the</strong>ir own behavior and to understand that moral standards apply to<br />

everyone,including <strong>the</strong>mselves. Complex self-related emotions,like shame, pride,<br />

and guilt, which first emerge around three years <strong>of</strong> age, reveal that <strong>the</strong> individual<br />

has started to take this external perspective. In addition, words referring to internal<br />

(mental) states need to be acquired to promote mind talk, since <strong>the</strong> development<br />

<strong>of</strong> moral standards requires an understanding <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> cognitive,motivational,<br />

and emotional states that underlie people’s behavior and feelings. <strong>The</strong> larger<br />

<strong>the</strong> mental vocabulary <strong>of</strong> agiven child to describe <strong>the</strong>se internal states, <strong>the</strong> more<br />

she or he will be able to perceive and think about differentiated intentions. In <strong>the</strong><br />

following paragraphs, <strong>the</strong> development <strong>of</strong> each <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se aspects is explained in<br />

more detail. Most skills start todevelop intoddlerhood, but progress continues<br />

far beyond early childhood.<br />

In general, self-regulation undergoes major changes between <strong>the</strong> ages <strong>of</strong> two<br />

and four years. Younger toddlers still find it hard t<strong>of</strong>ollow instructions or to accept<br />

that <strong>the</strong>y are not allowed to show certain behaviors, especially when external<br />

demands keep <strong>the</strong>m from realizing <strong>the</strong>ir ownplans. <strong>The</strong>y also find it hard to deal<br />

with frustration or o<strong>the</strong>rnegative feelings. <strong>The</strong>ir lack <strong>of</strong> impulse control and emotion<br />

regulation has to do with <strong>the</strong> fact that certain brain areas responsible for selfregulation<br />

(for example, <strong>the</strong> orbit<strong>of</strong>rontal cortex) mature between ages threeand

<strong>The</strong> Beginnings <strong>of</strong> Norm and Value Formation in Human Ontogeny 67<br />

five. It is thus not by chance, nor by bad intention, that two-to-three-year-olds <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

experience tantrums. When toddlers do not get <strong>the</strong>ir way, <strong>the</strong>y <strong>of</strong>ten protest<br />

loudly, usually causingcaregivers to insist on beingobeyed. Children may experience<br />

this situation as threatening to <strong>the</strong>ir emerging sense <strong>of</strong> autonomy or to<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir emotional bond with <strong>the</strong> caregiver, thus intensifying <strong>the</strong>ir attempts to communicate<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir need. Caregivers <strong>the</strong>n feel provoked by signs <strong>of</strong> disobedience and<br />

become angry. Unfortunately, showing negative emotions makes things even<br />

worse, as <strong>the</strong>yfuel toddlers’ arousal and anxiety. This is likely to end in atantrum<br />

because childrenare unable to self-regulate and calm down; ra<strong>the</strong>r, <strong>the</strong>y get overwhelmed<br />

by <strong>the</strong>ir own negative feelings. In such situations, it is important to help<br />

<strong>the</strong> child relax before discussing<strong>the</strong> issue and trying to negotiate asolution. Managing<br />

conflicts <strong>of</strong> interest is highly challenging and stressful for children as well<br />

as caregivers, but correspondingsituations play akey role when it comestopromoting<br />

social behavior in <strong>the</strong> long run. It pays <strong>of</strong>f for parents to remainpatient but<br />

clear about consequences, and to justify<strong>the</strong>ir ownposition by explaining <strong>the</strong> rationale<br />

underlying<strong>the</strong>irdecisions. High arousal blocks reasoningskills and will<br />

not help <strong>the</strong> child to gain insights into <strong>the</strong> need to accept agiven social norm.<br />

In situations <strong>of</strong> conflict, young toddlers realize differences between <strong>the</strong>mselves<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir caregivers in evaluating agiven situation. One good thing about<br />

this is that it contributes to developing autonomy and asense <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> self. As suggested<br />

by <strong>the</strong> so-called Rouge test, aconscious self-concept first emerges during<br />

<strong>the</strong> second year <strong>of</strong> life: When an adult casually places avisible mark on <strong>the</strong> face <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> child, and <strong>the</strong> child later sees herself in <strong>the</strong> mirror, she may ei<strong>the</strong>r touch <strong>the</strong><br />

mark on her face because she already knows that <strong>the</strong> image refers to herself, or<br />

she may touch <strong>the</strong> mark on <strong>the</strong> face in <strong>the</strong> mirror because she still lacks <strong>the</strong> ability<br />

to recognize herself. Looking at <strong>the</strong>mselves from an external perspective helps<br />

young toddlers to consciously reflect how o<strong>the</strong>rs perceive and evaluate <strong>the</strong>ir behavior.<br />

Feelings <strong>of</strong> shame and pride also emerge between two and three years <strong>of</strong> age,<br />

as <strong>the</strong>y are related to this increasing awareness <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> self. One experiences<br />

shame when one feels uncomfortable being evaluated by o<strong>the</strong>rs, and pride when<br />

one feels good because o<strong>the</strong>rs evaluate aspects <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir personality positively.<br />

Both feelings imply ageneral understanding that (a) each person has attributes<br />

characterizing his or her personality, (b) social evaluation matters for one’s own<br />

well-being, and (c) <strong>the</strong> child can be <strong>the</strong> object <strong>of</strong> social evaluation. Among <strong>the</strong><br />

three emotions just mentioned, guilt is probably <strong>the</strong> one most closely linked to<br />

moral development. Originally, <strong>the</strong> nonacceptance <strong>of</strong> acertain behavior is communicated<br />

by o<strong>the</strong>rs, and <strong>the</strong> child receives direct negative feedback when acting<br />

that way. Repeated experiences <strong>of</strong> this kind lead <strong>the</strong> child to expect social punishment<br />

if he or she shows certain behaviors, and this expectation usually leads to<br />

impulse control in <strong>the</strong> presence <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs. <strong>The</strong> expectation <strong>of</strong> negative consequences<br />

is later internalized and prevents <strong>the</strong> child from showing <strong>the</strong> nonacceptable

68 Sabina Pauen<br />

behavior even without o<strong>the</strong>rs being present. Feelings <strong>of</strong> shame or guilt mark an<br />

important milestone inmoral development, but <strong>the</strong>y can also reduce spontaneous,<br />

au<strong>the</strong>ntic, and explorative behavior. Caregivers should thus carefully consider<br />

<strong>the</strong> behaviors for which <strong>the</strong>y induce feelings <strong>of</strong> pride, shame, or guilt.<br />

Because childrendonot yet fully understand moral standards at ages two to<br />

three, <strong>the</strong>y mainly refrain from showing certain behaviors in order to avoid social<br />

punishment, and <strong>the</strong>y show o<strong>the</strong>r behaviors more <strong>of</strong>ten if <strong>the</strong>y are socially rewarded.<br />

If social feedback does not have much value for achild, however, or if<br />

<strong>the</strong> child is used to being treated harshly anyway, showing disapproval may not<br />

have much <strong>of</strong> an effect. This is <strong>of</strong>ten <strong>the</strong> problem in families that use punishment<br />

frequently.<br />

If acaregiver wants to support<strong>the</strong> formation <strong>of</strong> values and norms in achild, it<br />

is insufficient to just provide negative feedback for antisocialbehavior; ra<strong>the</strong>r, <strong>the</strong><br />

child needs some explanation why abehavior is not acceptable. That way, <strong>the</strong><br />

child also increases his or her vocabulary to describe emotions, thoughts, or motivational<br />

states, thus promoting mind talk,which helps <strong>the</strong> child understand <strong>the</strong><br />

meaning <strong>of</strong> social values and norms. By pointingout how o<strong>the</strong>rs are affected if a<br />

given social rule is ignored,caregivers teach childrentoimagine<strong>the</strong> consequences<br />

<strong>of</strong> behavior for <strong>the</strong>mselves and to simulate <strong>the</strong> associated feelings, thus acquiring<br />

adeeper understanding <strong>of</strong>why <strong>the</strong>y should follow <strong>the</strong> rule. Verbal communication<br />

thus helps <strong>the</strong> child to abstract, memorize, and understand social<br />

rules.<br />

In sum, toddlers are still in aprocess <strong>of</strong> learning how to control <strong>the</strong>irimpulses<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir emotions and how to talk about mental states. Fur<strong>the</strong>rmore, <strong>the</strong>ir developing<br />

<strong>of</strong> self-awareness helps <strong>the</strong>m to look at <strong>the</strong>ir own actions from adifferent<br />

perspective,toidentifywith specific values, and to experience shame, pride, and<br />

guilt when <strong>the</strong>ir behavior does not match social standards, thus showing<strong>the</strong> first<br />

signs <strong>of</strong> internalizing values and norms. Talking about conflicts and <strong>the</strong> rules for<br />

resolving <strong>the</strong>m supports this process in important ways.<br />

Early Childhood<br />

Apart from learning by reward and verbal explanations, observational learning<br />

has already been identified as acrucial mechanism for transmitting values and<br />

norms that starts already in infancy but becomes more and more important with<br />


<strong>Family</strong> Storytelling and <strong>the</strong><br />

Communication <strong>of</strong> Values<br />

Robyn Fivush<br />

Human beings are storytellers. Whe<strong>the</strong>r telling tales <strong>of</strong> mythic adventures, folk<br />

heroes, or family members, humans understand and communicate about <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

world, <strong>the</strong> people in it, and what it all means through stories. 1 Moreover, stories<br />

always have apoint, amoral, avalue. Stories are compelling illustrations <strong>of</strong> what<br />

it meanstobeaperson, <strong>of</strong> how to live alife, and how to relate to o<strong>the</strong>rs. Through<br />

stories we construct shared understandings <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> world and how to be apart <strong>of</strong> it.<br />

And we do this all <strong>the</strong> time. Certainly, we tell <strong>the</strong> big stories at holidays and ritual<br />

celebrations, at weddings, births, and funerals, in political and religious observances;<br />

we tell <strong>the</strong> stories <strong>of</strong> our family, <strong>of</strong> our community, <strong>of</strong> our people. But we<br />

also tell small stories; every day we share <strong>the</strong> minutiae <strong>of</strong> our lives, what we did at<br />

work or school, with friends and family, over <strong>the</strong> dinner table, over <strong>the</strong> phone, or<br />

over <strong>the</strong> internet. Estimates indicate that <strong>the</strong>se kinds <strong>of</strong> stories emerge in everyday<br />

conversations about once every five minutes. 2 That we tell stories is unquestionable;<br />

how and why we tell stories is amore interesting story!<br />

In this chapter, Ireview research my colleagues and Ihave conducted over<br />

<strong>the</strong> past three decades examining <strong>the</strong> processes and outcomes <strong>of</strong> family<br />

storytelling. 3 How do families create shared stories that reverberate through <strong>the</strong><br />

generations, and how might <strong>the</strong>se stories influence developmental outcome? I<br />

show how family storytelling passes on not just family knowledge and traditions<br />

but also family values, an understanding <strong>of</strong>what it means to be part <strong>of</strong> afamily<br />

and to share commitments, values, and ideals. To lay <strong>the</strong> foundation for this argument,<br />

Ifirst provide amore overarching <strong>the</strong>oretical frame for examining how stories<br />

both create and are created within broad social and cultural interactions.<br />

1<br />

2<br />

3<br />

J. Bruner, Acts <strong>of</strong> Meaning (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990).<br />

J. G. Bohanek et al., “Narrative Interaction in <strong>Family</strong> Dinnertime Conversations,” Merrill-<br />

Palmer Quarterly 55, no. 4(Oct. 2009): 488–515, https://doi.org/10.1353/mpq.0.0031.<br />

See R. Fivush, <strong>Family</strong> Narratives and <strong>the</strong> Development <strong>of</strong> an Autobiographical Self: Social<br />

and Cultural Perspectives on Autobiographical Memory (New York: Routledge, 2019).

76 Robyn Fivush<br />

<strong>Family</strong> Storytelling in Sociocultural Context<br />

Anarrative, orstory, carves <strong>the</strong> unending flow <strong>of</strong> experience into discrete units<br />

with beginnings, middles, and ends. 4 All known human cultures tell stories, 5 and,<br />

although <strong>the</strong> form <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> narrative might vary, all stories integrate what Jerome<br />

Bruner has called <strong>the</strong> landscape <strong>of</strong> action – <strong>the</strong> external world <strong>of</strong> objects, actions,<br />

and people – with <strong>the</strong> landscape <strong>of</strong> consciousness – <strong>the</strong> internal world <strong>of</strong><br />

thoughts, emotions, and reflections. 6 In this way, stories become more than recounting<br />

what happened and include information about why things unfolded as<br />

<strong>the</strong>y did, about intentions and motivations, as well as about consequences,reactions,<br />

and ramifications, telling adrama ripe with human emotion and interpretation.<br />

In this sense, all stories are forms <strong>of</strong> morality tales; <strong>the</strong>y are told for areason,<br />

to make apoint, to draw alesson about how alife should be lived.<br />

Infants are embedded within stories from <strong>the</strong> moment <strong>of</strong> birth. Parents and<br />

grandparents whisper stories into infants’ ears, telling <strong>the</strong>m fairy tales, nursery<br />

rhymes, and, importantly, stories <strong>of</strong> this family <strong>of</strong> which <strong>the</strong>y have become apart.<br />

As infants develop into toddlers, <strong>the</strong>y are drawn into storytelling, participating<br />

both in reading storybooks by pointing and gesturing, and in co-narrating stories<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir own experiences. Being able to tell one’s story is acritical cultural skill.<br />

Adept cultural members are expected to be able to present acoherent story <strong>of</strong> self,<br />

whe<strong>the</strong>r on acollege essay, in ajob interview, or while meeting apossible romantic<br />

partner. Each <strong>of</strong> us must be able to explain who we are, how we became this<br />

way, and what we plan to be in <strong>the</strong> future as acoherent and compelling narrative<br />

<strong>of</strong> self. 7 Children begin to learn <strong>the</strong>se skills within <strong>the</strong> family, as parents, grandparents,<br />

and siblings draw children into participating in co-narrating <strong>the</strong> stories<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir lives.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se family stories are created within cultural contexts that provide <strong>the</strong> tools<br />

for story making; cultures provide life scripts that define <strong>the</strong> typical life course –<br />

childhood, schooling, romance, marriage, parenting, and, finally, retirement –<br />

and <strong>the</strong> kinds <strong>of</strong> events expected to occurateach <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se time periods. 8 In addition<br />

to <strong>the</strong> overall structure <strong>of</strong> alife, cultures provide templates, or master narratives,<br />

that provide acanonical shape to life-defining events, <strong>the</strong> narrative arc <strong>of</strong><br />

4<br />

5<br />

6<br />

7<br />

8<br />

P. Ricoeur, “Life in Quest <strong>of</strong> Narrative,” in On Paul Ricoeur: Narrative and Interpretation,<br />

ed. D. Wood (London: Routledge Press, 1991), 20–33.<br />

N. Goodman, Ways <strong>of</strong> Worldmaking, vol. 51 (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1978).<br />

Bruner, Acts <strong>of</strong> Meaning.<br />

D. P. McAdams, “<strong>The</strong> Psychology <strong>of</strong> Life Stories,” Review <strong>of</strong> General Psychology no. 5<br />

(2001): 100–22.<br />

D. Bernsten and A. Bohn, “Cultural Life Scripts and Individual Life Stories,” in Memory in<br />

Mind and Culture, ed. P. Boyer and J. Wertsch, 130–47 (New York: Cambridge University<br />

Press, 2010).

<strong>Family</strong> Storytelling and <strong>the</strong> Communication <strong>of</strong> Values 77<br />

our experience. For example, Dan McAdams defines <strong>the</strong> redemptive life narrative<br />

as <strong>the</strong> core U.S. master narrative, <strong>the</strong> story <strong>of</strong> rising up from nothing, <strong>of</strong> overcoming<br />

hardship through perseverance and grit, and <strong>of</strong> “making good,” both materially<br />

and personally. 9 This redemptive narrative arc is <strong>the</strong> story <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> country’s<br />

founding, <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Pilgrims and <strong>the</strong> Revolution,<strong>the</strong> immigrantstory <strong>of</strong> rags to riches,<br />

<strong>of</strong> being born into poverty and becoming an American icon, as exemplified<br />

today by Oprah and Dolly Parton. Master narratives carry cultural values, defining<br />

success and “<strong>the</strong> good life” within specific parameters.<br />

Culturallycanonical master narratives seep into our national and local institutions,<br />

into our schools, and into our homes. <strong>The</strong> ways in which families as a<br />

whole, and each individual family member, tell <strong>the</strong>ir stories are influenced by<br />

<strong>the</strong>se overarching cultural frames that allow for certain ways <strong>of</strong> understanding<br />

how <strong>the</strong> world works. Even if stories do not conform to <strong>the</strong> master narrative, that<br />

narrative provides <strong>the</strong> backdrop against which individual stories are told,ifnot as<br />

confirmations, <strong>the</strong>n as negations, contestations, or upheavals. Thus, adialectical<br />

relation unfolds. Cultural narratives provide forms forour individual and family<br />

stories, but our individual and family stories also influence <strong>the</strong> evolution <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

cultural narratives. Perhaps <strong>the</strong> best example <strong>of</strong> this is <strong>the</strong> emerging U.S. cultural<br />

narratives about race and racism, as we see <strong>the</strong> role that cultural narratives and<br />

counternarratives have played and continue to play in <strong>the</strong> quest for social<br />

justice. 10<br />

Both cultural and family narratives also change within more local contexts, as<br />

we tell our stories to and with o<strong>the</strong>rs. As we tell both our small stories <strong>of</strong> everyday<br />

happenings and big stories <strong>of</strong> momentous events, we tell <strong>the</strong>m to people who react,<br />

express concern or joy, comfortorcelebrate with us, or provide <strong>the</strong>irown interpterion<strong>of</strong>what<br />

happened. Listeners influence how we tell our story in <strong>the</strong> moment<br />

and how we will tell it in <strong>the</strong> future. 11 When we reminisce about experiences<br />

that we sharedtoge<strong>the</strong>r, each participant in <strong>the</strong> conversation adds <strong>the</strong>ir own bits<br />

and pieces, confirming, expanding, negotiating what happened in <strong>the</strong> construction<br />

<strong>of</strong> ajointtapestry that becomes <strong>the</strong> basis <strong>of</strong> how this story will continue to be<br />

told in <strong>the</strong> future. Thus, our stories are not static; like our memories <strong>the</strong>mselves,<br />

stories are reconstructed over timeand through multiple sharings and are shaped<br />

9<br />

10<br />

11<br />

D. P. McAdams, “<strong>The</strong> Redemptive Self: Narrative Identity in America Today,” in <strong>The</strong> Self<br />

and Memory, ed. D. R. Beike, J. M. Lampinen, and D. A. Behrend, 95–116 (New York: Psychology<br />

Press, 2004).<br />

P. Cumberbath and N. Trujillo-Pagán, “Hashtag Activism and Why #BlackLivesMatter in<br />

(and to) <strong>the</strong> Classroom,” Radical Teacher 106 (2016), https://radicalteacher.library.pitt.edu/ojs/radicalteacher/article/view/302.<br />

M. Pasupathi and J. Billitteri, “Being and Becoming through Being Heard: Listener Effects<br />

on Stories and Selves,” International Journal <strong>of</strong> Listening 29 (2015): 67–84, https://<br />


78 Robyn Fivush<br />

by evolving cultural and personal evaluations <strong>of</strong> what events were aboutand what<br />

<strong>the</strong>y mean. Moreover, stories <strong>of</strong> self are intricately interwoven with stories <strong>of</strong> family<br />

members, both in how children come to tell <strong>the</strong>ir own personal stories and how<br />

<strong>the</strong>y come to understand <strong>the</strong>mselves as part <strong>of</strong> afamily.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Cultural Ecology <strong>of</strong> <strong>Family</strong> Storytelling<br />

Adapting Urie Bronfenbrenner’secological model <strong>of</strong> child development, 12 my colleagues<br />

and Ideveloped amodel <strong>of</strong> how individual life stories are culturally embedded<br />

within <strong>the</strong> family, <strong>the</strong> community, and <strong>the</strong> broader sociohistorical<br />

context. 13 As depicted in Figure 1, <strong>the</strong> child at <strong>the</strong> center <strong>of</strong> this complex interactive<br />

system is an active participant in <strong>the</strong>ir own developmental process, and individual<br />

characteristics, such as gender, age, and temperament, are critical components,<br />

both in how children interact with o<strong>the</strong>rs and in how <strong>the</strong>y form <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

personal stories. <strong>The</strong> child is immediatelyencircled within <strong>the</strong> family and participates<br />

in both hearing family stories and beginning to construct<strong>the</strong>ir ownstories<br />

<strong>of</strong> self through parentally structured narrative interactions. At this level, <strong>the</strong> stories<br />

focus on <strong>the</strong> child’sown lived experiences, events that <strong>the</strong>y recall to and with<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rs. At <strong>the</strong> next level out are generational family stories. <strong>The</strong>se are stories that<br />

<strong>the</strong> child has not personally experienced but only knows through <strong>the</strong> storytelling.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se include stories <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> parents’ lives both outside <strong>the</strong> current home,such as<br />

at work, and before <strong>the</strong> child was born, especially stories parents tell <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir own<br />

childhood experiences, what are called intergenerational narratives. Finally, at<br />

<strong>the</strong> outer layer are sociohistorical stories, both <strong>the</strong> master narratives that provide<br />

<strong>the</strong> culturally canonical myths and narrative arcs, as well as family history, stories<br />

about generations past (great-grandparents and beyond), and tales <strong>of</strong> how<br />

this family has evolved and emerged across <strong>the</strong> generations.<br />

As depicted by <strong>the</strong> bidirectional arrows, all levels are always in dynamic interaction;all<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se kinds <strong>of</strong> stories occur everyday;inatypical family dinner<br />

conversation, stories emerge every five minutes. 14 Many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se stories are <strong>the</strong><br />

child recounting<strong>the</strong>ir day at school, <strong>of</strong>ten in response to parental questioning, or<br />

stories hearkening back to ashared family event, such as last summer at <strong>the</strong><br />

beach or visiting Grandma for <strong>the</strong> holidays. <strong>Family</strong> stories centered around <strong>the</strong><br />

child’sdirect experiences account for about half<strong>of</strong>all stories told around atypical<br />

12<br />

13<br />

14<br />

U. Br<strong>of</strong>enbrenner, <strong>The</strong> Ecology <strong>of</strong> Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design<br />

(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979).<br />

R. Fivush and N. Merrill, “An Ecological Systems Approach to <strong>Family</strong> Narratives,” Memory<br />

Studies 9, no. 3(2016): 305–14; K. McLean, <strong>The</strong> Co-Authored Self (New York: Oxford<br />

University Press, 2015).<br />

Bohanek et al., “Narrative Interaction.”

<strong>Family</strong> Storytelling and <strong>the</strong> Communication <strong>of</strong> Values 79<br />

Figure 1. <strong>The</strong> cultural ecology <strong>of</strong> family storytelling<br />

dinner table. But <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r half do not feature <strong>the</strong> child as one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> characters.<br />

Generational storytelling, such as parents talking about <strong>the</strong>ir day at work, occur<br />

as frequently as children telling about <strong>the</strong>ir day at school, and almost all families<br />

will sprinkle in astory or two that tells about<strong>the</strong> parents’ childhood experiences<br />

or even more remote family history. <strong>The</strong>se stories create shared histories and<br />

shared understanding<strong>of</strong>each o<strong>the</strong>r’sworld among family members and help <strong>the</strong><br />

developing child evaluate and express <strong>the</strong>ir own personal experiences as part <strong>of</strong><br />

larger family and community frameworks that provide aset <strong>of</strong> beliefs and values<br />

to live by. In <strong>the</strong> remainder <strong>of</strong> this chapter, Idelineate each <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se layers <strong>of</strong> family<br />


80 Robyn Fivush<br />

Shared <strong>Family</strong> Stories<br />

Early in development, parents and o<strong>the</strong>r family members help children express<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir personal experiences in coherent evaluative narrative frameworks.Children<br />

begin referencing <strong>the</strong>ir personal past almost as soon as <strong>the</strong>y begin talking, at<br />

about sixteen to eighteen months <strong>of</strong> age, but at this early stage, <strong>the</strong>ir references<br />

are fleeting and <strong>of</strong>ten confusing. Parents and o<strong>the</strong>r family members draw out<br />

<strong>the</strong>se responses, interpreting and elaborating on minimal expressions from <strong>the</strong><br />

child, <strong>of</strong>ten just yes/no responses, head nods, and assents as parents tell <strong>the</strong>m<br />

what fun <strong>the</strong>y had at <strong>the</strong> playground, orhow delicious Grandma’s cookies were.<br />

<strong>The</strong> preschool years are particularly important in this developmental process,<br />

as this is <strong>the</strong> period <strong>of</strong> development when memory and language skills are becoming<br />

consolidated, and children begin to be able to participate more fully in <strong>the</strong>se<br />

reminiscing conversations, as illustrated by <strong>the</strong> following narrative shared between<br />

amo<strong>the</strong>r and her four-year-old daughter, Andrea. 15 <strong>The</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r asks why<br />

Andrea was angry at her friend at school, and Andrea responds:<br />

Andrea: She pinched me.<br />

Mo<strong>the</strong>r: What did you do when she did that?<br />

Andrea: Istarted crying.<br />

Mo<strong>the</strong>r: And <strong>the</strong>n what did you do? You went and told <strong>the</strong> teacher?<br />

Andrea: Yeah, Iwent to her.<br />

Mo<strong>the</strong>r: And <strong>the</strong>n what happened.<br />

Andrea: And <strong>the</strong>n Ihad to go out <strong>the</strong> hallway and when <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r teacher came I<br />

had to go out to <strong>the</strong> hallway with her and <strong>the</strong>n Ms. X, Ms. X, she had to<br />

stay in <strong>the</strong> class with <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rchildren and <strong>the</strong>n Ihad to sit down in her<br />

chair with my back <br />

Mo<strong>the</strong>r: But you didn’tget hurt real bad, right?Ithurt when it first happened, but<br />

it didn’t really last long, right?<br />

Andrea: Ididn’t – Iwent to Ms. Xshe told us (not) to fight and <strong>the</strong>n<br />

<strong>the</strong> boys were supposed to be on this side and <strong>the</strong> girls were supposedto<br />

be in back <strong>the</strong> girls were supposedtobein<strong>the</strong> front <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>of</strong>fice and <strong>the</strong>n so …<br />

Mo<strong>the</strong>r: But <strong>the</strong>n after you got through, what happened with you and (friend)?<br />

Did you all talk again?<br />

Andrea: No, she said sorry, but she had to get in trouble.<br />

Mo<strong>the</strong>r: She apologized, right? Did you accept her apology? Did you say okay?<br />

Andrea: Yeah.<br />

Mo<strong>the</strong>r: You all still talk, right? You kind <strong>of</strong> made up? You’re still friends?<br />

15<br />

This and all examples are from Fivush, <strong>Family</strong> Narratives. All conversations were audiotaped<br />

and transcribed verbatim. All names are pseudonyms.

<strong>The</strong> project and <strong>the</strong> publication were supported by <strong>the</strong><br />

Karl-Schlecht Stiftung and <strong>the</strong> University <strong>of</strong> Heidelberg.<br />

Bibliographic information published by <strong>the</strong> Deutsche Nationalbiblio<strong>the</strong>k<br />

<strong>The</strong> Deutsche Nationalbiblio<strong>the</strong>k lists this publication in <strong>the</strong> Deutsche Nationalbibliographie;<br />

detailed bibliographic data are available on <strong>the</strong> Internet at http://dnb.dnb.de.<br />

© 2022 by Evangelische Verlagsanstalt GmbH · Leipzig<br />

Printed in Germany<br />

This work, including all <strong>of</strong> its parts, is protected by copyright. Any use beyond <strong>the</strong> strict limits<br />

<strong>of</strong> copyright law without <strong>the</strong> permisson <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> publishing house is strictly prohibited and<br />

punishable by law. This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, micr<strong>of</strong>ilming, and<br />

storage or processing <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> entire content or parts <strong>the</strong>re<strong>of</strong> in electronic systems.<br />

This book is printed on ageing resistant paper.<br />

Cover: Kai-<strong>Michael</strong> Gustmann, Leipzig<br />

Cover picture: © persephone3d / www.fotosearch.com<br />

Typesetting: 3w+p, Rimpar<br />

Printing and Binding: Hubert & Co., Göttingen<br />

ISBN 978-3-374-07052-7 // eISBN (PDF) 978-3-374-07053-4<br />


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