Human Moral and Emotional Development

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human moral and emotional development

These resources examine what we know about human moral and emotional development, from scientific studies and personal reflection. For more resources on how capitalist overconsumption and addiction challenge the notion that we are “sovereign individuals”, see this page. For more resources on how the sex industry distorts human moral and emotional development, see this page. For more resources on how credit and indebtedness allow people to fund overconsumption and entrap themselves, see this page. For more resources on how money itself affects people’s psychology and relationships, see this page.

Messages and Essays on Human Moral and Emotional Development

Shame and Glory: How Jesus Heals Your Self, Desires, and Emotions A curriculum for small group discussion or personal reflection. Shame is the desire to hide the self. Glory is the response of God to invest Himself in us and renew His image in us. This material explores humanity as fundamentally good, but corrupted by sin, and not entirely in control of our own desires and emotions. Part of the spiritual and emotional struggle, then, is to know ourselves, know how God sees and loves us, and to receive into ourselves the Spirit of Christ. Peppered with insights from the early Christians, including some “desert fathers and mothers” who were the earliest “spiritual directors.”

The Emotions of God

How Our Emotions Are Windows Into God

The Emotions of God: How Our Emotions Are Windows Into God A curriculum for small group discussion; a subset of the Shame and Glory material. Scripture often invites us to consider emotional language as it applies to God. Jesus also demonstrated very human emotions and called forth our participation in God’s joy, sorrow, etc. These passages give us valuable insights into God’s character and love for us. Part of our life with Jesus is to allow him to shape and reshape our emotions, that we would respond to others and circumstances with the consistency of Jesus. This guide helps us do that.

Books and Articles on Human Moral and Emotional Development 

Empowered to Connect (website) founded by Dr. Karyn Purvis, along with Texas Christian University's Institute of Child Development

Toxic Stress: The Facts (Harvard Center on the Developing Child)

Kevin T. McCauley, Addiction Q&A (Institute for Addiction Study)

George Santayana, The Sense of Beauty: Being the Outline of Aesthetic Theory (Amazon book, 1896)

Daniel A. Hughes, Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children (Amazon book, 1998)

Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Amazon book, Mar 1, 2007) a groundbreaking cross-cultural study of envy, irritation, anxiety, paranoia and how they are expressed

Robin Nixon, Individuals with Rare Disorder Have No Racial Biases (Live Science, Apr 12, 2010) how social anxiety is at the root of race perception, showing the importance of dealing with fear

Daniel R. Hawes, When Ignorance Begets Confidence: The Classic Dunning-Kruger Effect (Psychology Today, Jun 6, 2010)

David Schnark, People Who Can't Control Themselves Control the People Around Them, part 1 (Psychology Today, May 23, 2011)

David Schnark, People Who Can't Control Themselves Control the People Around Them, part 2 (Psychology Today, May 27, 2011)

Michael Murray, Roughhousing With Dad Crucial for Development, Researchers Say (ABC News, Jun 17, 2011)

Eric Barker, The Shortcut to Bonding with a Romantic Partner on a Deeper Level (Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Aug 2011)

Marc Lewis, Defining Addiction: Disease, Choice, or Self-Medication? (Psychology Today, Jun 21, 2012)

Mark Manson, The "Do Something" Principle (Mark Manson blog, Dec 26, 2011) and 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose (Sep 18, 2014) cites Amy Wrzesniewski, et.al., Jobs, Careers, and Callings: People’s Relations to Their Work (Journal of Research in Personality, 1997) that desires is often the result of action

Amy Cuddy, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (TED Talk, Jun 2012)

Joe Fassler, What Flannery O'Connor Got Right: Epiphanies Aren't Permanent (The Atlantic, Jan 4, 2013)

Shankar Vedantam, Why You Love That Ikea Table, Even If It's Crooked, (NPR, Feb 6, 2013, on why laboring leads to loving)

Alain de Botton, 12 Rude Revelations About Sex (Psychology Today, Jan 2, 2013)

Matt Smethurst, Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike? Michael Jordan at 50 (The Gospel Coalition, Feb 20, 2013)

Daniel Reisel, The Neuroscience of Restorative Justice (TED talk, Feb 2013)

Paul Tullis, Poor Little Tiger Cub: The first major study of tiger moms is out. Kids have worse grades; they are more depressed and more alienated from their parents (Slate, May 8, 2013)

Annie Murphy Paul, Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer (TIME, Jun 3, 2013)

Tamara Jacobi, How I Healed My Metabolism By Rewiring My Brain (Mind Body Green, Jul 11, 2013)

Damon Young, The Wisdom of Gardens (Aeon, Jun 14, 2013) gardens expand our thinking, console us in times of crisis, school us in emotional generosity, and show us that life goes on

Brett and Kate McKay, What Strengthens and Weakens Our Integrity - Part 1: Why Small Choices Count (Aug 5, 2013)

Brett and Kate McKay, What Strengthens and Weakens Our Integrity - Part 2: Closing the Gap Between Our Actions and Their Consequences (Aug 7, 2013)

Brett and Kate McKay, What Strengthens and Weakens Our Integrity - Part 3: How to Stop the Spread of the Immorality Virus (Aug 12, 2013)

Brett and Kate McKay, What Strengthens and Weakens Our Integrity - Part 4: The Power of Moral Reminders (Aug 19, 2013)

Jennifer Kahn, Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught? (NY Times Magazine, Sep 11, 2013)

Matthew Hutson, Morality, Secret to Popularity (Boston Globe, Oct 27, 2013)

Mark Manson, The Most Important Question of Your Life (Mark Manson blog, Nov 6, 2013) is what pain are you willing to endure, to grow?

Rod Dreher, But Now He Sees (The American Conservative, Nov 13, 2013)

SeventhVoice, Theory Finds That Individuals With Asperger's Syndrome Don't Lack Empathy - They Empathize Too Much (Seventh Voice blog, Nov 16, 2013)

Claire Hannum, Casual Sex Might Be Making Teenagers Sad (xojane, Nov 26, 2013)

Carolyn Gregoire, How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?  Here's How to Tell (Huffington Post, Dec 5, 2013) 

Brooke Donatone, Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up: Helicopter parenting has caused my psychotherapy clients to crash land (Washington Post, Dec 2, 2013)

Roman Krznaric, The Six Ancient Greek Words for Love (and Why Knowing Them Could Change Your Life) (Yes Magazine, Dec 27, 2013)

Thomas Jivanda, Brain Boosted for Several Days After Reading a Novel (The Independent, Dec 28, 2013)

Jacqueline Howard, Reading Changes Brain's Connectivity, Study Suggests (Huffington Post, Dec 30, 2013)

Jenn Choi, How to Teach Kids to Be Grateful: Give Them Less (The Atlantic, Jan 6, 2014)

Lisa Endlich Heffernan, The Case for Nagging Kids About Their Homework (The Atlantic, Jan 6, 2014)

Adam Alter, The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking (The New Yorker, Feb 19, 2014)

Jon Hamilton, Orphans' Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape a Child's Brain (NPR, Feb 24, 2014)

Alan White, A Photographer Asked Convicts to Write to Their Younger Selves and the Results Were Gut-Wrenching (Buzzfeed, Feb 27, 2014)

Cris Rowan, 10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12 (Huffington Post, Mar 6, 2014)

Leonid Bershidsky, Want a Lasting Relationship? Give Up Sex (Bloomberg, Mar 13, 2014)

Isaac Saul, After Going Undercover To A Brothel Selling Kids For Sex, This Man Is Now Fighting Child Trafficking (Huffington Post, Mar 18, 2014)

David Wood, When Right and Wrong Are Hard to Tell Apart (Huffington Post, Mar 19, 2014)

Sue Shellenbarger, The Power of Earliest Memories: Parents, Not Snapshots, Are the Way Kids Benefit from Memories (Wall Street Journal, Apr 7, 2014)

Greater Good, Why Practice Gratitude? (Greater Good, Apr 2014)

Michael Rosenwald, Serious Reading Takes a Hit from Online Scanning and Skimming, Researchers Say (Washington Post, Apr 6, 2014)

Adam Grant, Raising a Moral Child (NY Times, Apr 11, 2014)

David Brooks, The Moral Power of Curiosity (NY Times, Apr 11, 2014)

Austin Tedesco and Josh Coyne, An Emotional Look at Gratitude (Boston College Heights interview and video, Apr 14, 2014)

Christopher Bergland, Social Disadvantage Creates Genetic Wear and Tear (Psychology Today, Apr 15, 2014)

Aaron Taube, These Job Applicants Were Told They’d Be Paid Nothing If They Were Hired — Then They Found Out Why (Business Insider, Apr 16, 2014)

Drake Baer, 14 Surprising Things That Affect Your Willpower and Decision Making (Business Insider, Apr 18, 2014)

Nikil Saval, The Secret History of Life-Hacking (Pacific Standard, Apr 22, 2014)

Earth We Are One, Nurse Reveals the Top 5 Regrets People Make on Their Deathbed (Earth We Are One, May 21, 2014)

True Activist, Scientists Link Selfies to Narcissism, Addiction, and Mental Illness (blog, Jun 13, 2014)

Eileen Shim, Psychologists Have Uncovered a Troubling Feature of People Who Seem Nice All the Time (Mic, Jun 30, 2014)

Matthew Hutson, People Prefer Electric Shocks to Being Alone With Their Thoughts (The Atlantic, Jul 3, 2014)

Arthur C. Brooks, Love People, Not Pleasure (NY Times, Jul 18, 2014)

David Brooks, The Mental Virtues (NY Times, Aug 28, 2014)

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime (TED Talk, Sep 2014) re: when a child experiences abuse, neglect, parental mental illness, substance abuse, incarceration, separation or divorce, domestic violence

Paul Bloom, Against Empathy (Boston Review, Sep 10, 2014) on the dangers of empathy clouding your judgment

Rachel Grate, Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write (Mic Sep 15, 2014)

Sam Stein, How A Failed Experiment On Rats Sparked A Billion-Dollar Infant-Care Breakthrough (Huffington Post, Sep 18, 2014)

Travis Bradberry, Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Career, New Studies Suggest (Forbes, Oct 8, 2014)

Melissa Dahl, Emotional Abuse Can Be As Damaging As Sexual Abuse (New Yorker Magazine, Oct 8, 2014)

Gary Lewandowski, Everyday Stress Can Poison a Relationship (New Yorker Magazine, Oct 9, 2014)

Eileen Shim, Scientists Have Discovered an Activity Just as Pleasurable as Sex, Drugs and Gambling (Mic, Oct 28, 2014)

David Brooks, The Agency Moment (NY Times, Nov 13, 2014)

Peggy Drexler, Why We Love to Gossip (Huffington Post, Nov 15, 2014)

Jeff Guo, People Around You Control Your Mind: The Latest Evidence (Washington Post, Dec 4, 2014)

Jesse Singal, Don't Threaten to Punish Your Kids for Lying (NY Magazine, Dec 8, 2014)

Michael Schulman, Why "Into the Woods" Matters (The New Yorker, Dec 24, 2014)

Johann Hari, The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think (Huffington Post, Jan 20, 2015)

Fresh Air, Why Teens Are Impulsive, Addiction-Prone And Should Protect Their Brains (NPR, Jan 28, 2015)

Angela Duckworth, et.al., Will Not Want: Self-Control Rather Than Motivation Explains the Female Advantage in Report Card Grades (Science Direct, Mar 2, 2015)

Jesse Singal, How Children Become Narcissists (NY Magazine, Mar 9, 2015)

David Brooks, The Moral Bucket List (NY Times, Apr 11, 2015)

David Brooks, Building Spiritual Capital (NY Times, May 22, 2015)

Shane Parrish, How Play Enriches Our Creative Capacity (Time, May 27, 2015)

Sue Shellenbarger, Moms, Let Dad Be Dad (Wall Street Journal, Jun 16, 2015) and Roughhousing Lessons from Dad (WSJ, Jun 11, 2014)

Carol Dweck, The Power of Believing That You Can Improve (TED Talk, Dec 17, 2014)

Kali Holloday, 10 Careers With the Most Psychopaths (Salon, Jun 23, 2015)

Elizabeth Gilbert, Confessions of a Seduction Addict (NY Times, Jun 24, 2015)

Roman Krznaric, Welcome to the Empathy Wars (Transformation, Jun 29, 2015)

Spencer Kornhaber, Empathy: Overrated? (The Atlantic, Jul 3, 2015) on the dangers of empathy clouding your judgment

Esther Crain, The Skills That Make Kids More Likely to Grow Up to Be Successful (Yahoo News, Jul 17, 2015)

Julie Suratt, Spoiled Rotten (Boston Magazine, Jul 2015) on parenting

Roberto A. Ferdman, The Remarkable Thing That Happens to Poor Kids When You Give Their Parents a Little Money (Washington Post, Oct 8, 2015)

Theresa E DiDonato, Should You Play Hard to Get? (Psychology Today, Oct 31, 2015) on being wanted vs. being liked

Wikipedia, Inside Out (Wikipedia article) the movie, about how coming to terms with sadness and suffering is important to personality

Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg, The Key to Political Persuasion (NY Times, Nov 13, 2015) appealing to moral commitments, principles, or authorities that the other person shares

Jeremy Lin, A Reflection (blog, Dec 8, 2015) about achievement, stress, and identity

Gretchen Kelly, This is How a Lifetime of Potentially Dangerous Situations Affects Every Woman (Upworthy, Dec 10, 2015)

W. Bradford Wilcox, The Latest Social Science is Wrong.  Religion is Good for Families and Kids. (Washington Post, Dec 15, 2015)

Online Psychology Degrees, The Psychology of Spanking (Online Psychology Degrees)

Vicki Abeles, Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick? (NY Times, Jan 2, 2016)

Ye Murashova, A Thought-Provoking Experiment Showed What Happens When Children Don't Have the Internet for a Whole Day (Brightside)

Amanda Taub, The Unsexy Truth About Why the Arab Spring Failed (Vox, Jan 27, 2016) about humility, patience, and stable institutions in Tunisia

Adam Grant, How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off (NY Times, Jan 30, 2016)

Arthur C. Brooks, Narcissism is Increasing, So You're Not Special (NY Times, Feb 13, 2016)

Tracy Gillett, Simplifying Childhood May Protect Against Mental Health Issues (Raised Good blog, Mar 4, 2016)

Daniel Engber, Everything is Crumbling (Slate, Mar 6, 2016) about the theory of ego depletion (limited willpower)

David Niose, Beware America's Shocking Loss of Empathy (Psychology Today, Mar 6, 2016)

John Elder Robison, An Experimental Autism Treatment Cost Me My Marriage (NY Times, Mar 18, 2016)

Annie Holmquist, Psychologist: "Authoritative Parenting" is Best for Children (Intellectual Takeout, Apr 14, 2016)

Krista Tippett, Beauty is an Edge of Becoming (On Being, May 2, 2016) an exploration of beauty in science, and our desire to perceive beauty

Olga Khazan, Why Self-Compassion Works Better Than Self-Esteem (The Atlantic, May 6, 2016)

Rachel Gillett and Drake Baer, Science Says Parents of Successful Kids Have These 13 Things in Common (Business Insider, May 6, 2016) 

Jessica McCrory Calarco, Why Rich Kids Are So Good at the Marshmallow Test (The Altantic, Jun 1, 2018) Affluence—not willpower—seems to be what’s behind some kids' capacity to delay gratification; see also Meilan Solly, Why Delayed Gratification in the Marshmallow Test Doesn’t Equal Success Read Rich Kids Are So Good at the Marshmallow Test (The Smithsonian, Jun 5, 2018)

David Brooks, Why America’s Leadership Fails (NY Times, Aug 23, 2016) contrasts vocation vs. career

Bec Cranford-Smith, Progressive Evangelical Female's Story of Pornography and Sexual Addiction (Patheos, Sep 10, 2016)

Tyler J. VanderWeele and John Siniff, Religion May Be a Miracle Drug (USA Today, Oct 28, 2016) regular church attendance connected with longer life and sense of meaning

Brian Resnick, The Myth of Self-Control (Vox, Nov 24, 2016) it's about rhythm, finding joy in mundane things, and the choice before the choice

Olga Khazan, The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion (The Atlantic, Feb 1, 2017) reflects Jonathan Haidt's moral psychology

Drake Baer, Psychologists Think They Found the Purpose of Depression (NY Mag, Feb 9, 2017)

Simon Smart, The Generation Brought Up on Self-Esteem is Struggling (Sydney Morning Herald, Apr 15, 2017)

Katherine Sellgren, Babies with Involved Fathers Learn Faster, Study Finds (BBC, May 10, 2017)

Denis Campbell, Facebook and Twitter 'Harm Young People's Mental Health' (The Guardian, May 19, 2017) Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy, anxiety

Andrew Brown, The Danger of Porn Goes Beyond Sex - It Normalizes Unchecked Desire (The Guardian, Jul 17, 2017) insightful, longs for limits, and exposes the weakness in secular leftist thought that there are no limits to individualism

Aurelian Craiutu, Moderation May Be the Most Challenging and Rewarding Virtue (Aeon, Jul 17, 2017)

Livia Gershon, The Future is Emotional (Aeon, Jun 22, 2017) emotional work in human jobs, valuable but underpaid, outlook on the future

Anna Sanford, Babies Are Losing Sleep - And Touch Screens Are to Blame (Salon, Aug 9, 2017)

Jean M. Twenge, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? (The Atlantic, Sep 2017) and rebuttal by Alexandra Samuel, Yes, Smartphones Are Destroying a Generation, But Not of Kids (JSTOR Daily, Aug 8, 2017) who argues that it affected parents and parenting

Benoit Denizet-Lewis, Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety? (NY Times, Oct 11, 2017) should parents, therapists, and schools protect teenagers or help them face their fears?

Patricia A. Alexander and Lauren M. Singer, A New Study Shows That Students Learn Way More Effectively From Print Textbooks Than Screens (Business Insider, Oct 15, 2017)

James Taranto, The Politicization of Motherhood (WSJ, Oct 27, 2017) research on the first three years of child development, and the political reception of this science

John Bargh, At Yale, We Conducted an Experiment to Turn Conservatives Into Liberals. The Results Say a Lot About Our Political Divisions (Washington Post, Nov 22, 2017)

Scott Berson, How Often You Hold Your Baby Actually Affects Their DNA, Study Finds (Miami Herald, Nov 28, 2017)

Ashley Fetters, The Exceptional Cruelty of a No-Hugging Policy (The Atlantic, Jun 20, 2018) and Charlie Baily and Schuyler Henderson, The Clinical Case for Keeping Families Together (The Atlantic, Jun 20, 2018)

Andrew Jacobs, U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials (NY Times, Jul 8, 2018)

The Atlantic, How to Raise a Generous Child (The Atlantic, Jul 12, 2018) interesting developmental insights, with a stress on agency, though I remain persuaded that parents should structure time and expectations

Olga Khazan, 'Find Your Passion' Is Awful Advice (The Atlantic, Jul 12, 2018)

Ferris Jabr, How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution (NY Times, Jan 9, 2019) "The extravagant splendor of the animal kingdom can’t be explained by natural selection alone — so how did it come to be?"

Amanda Mull, Who Really Gets Hurt by Violent Fantasies? (The Atlantic, Jan 22, 2019) how anger-outburst catharsis might not work to dissipate anger

David Brooks, Morality and Michael Cohen (NY Times, Feb 28, 2019) observing how Cohen’s arrest jarred him into more moral and emotional clarity about greed - his own and Trump’s

Barbara Bray, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Blackfoot Nation Beliefs (Rethinking Learning, Mar 10, 2019) summarizing the work of Cindy Blackstock who pointed out how Abraham Maslow worked with and changed Blackfoot concepts involving self and community

Benjamin Wallace-Wells, David Brooks’ Conversion Story (The New Yorker, April 29, 2019) about Brooks’ pursuit of goodness and moral beauty. “I can’t unread Matthew…Jesus is the person who shows us what giving yourself away looks like.”

Daily Health Post Editorial, New Study: The More you Hug your Kids, the More Their Brains Develop (Daily Health Post, Jul 1, 2019)

Rachel Kramer Bussel, I Thought I Could Handle Being The ‘Other Woman.’ Then Jealousy Turned Me Into A Cyberstalker. (Huffington Post, Oct 8, 2019) a case study of sexuality and jealousy, nurtured and then consuming

Laura Cathcart Robbins, Is There Such A Thing As A Harmless Crush When You’re Married? (Huffington Post, Oct 14, 2019) an honest and accurate assessment that no, the dangers of self-bargaining, delusional thinking, and minimizing are too great

Sean Illing, Capitalism Is Turning Us Into Addicts (Vox, Oct 19, 2019) “How Big Business shapes our habits and desires”

desire: jesus leads us to true beauty: topics