ERIC Number: ED194210
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980-Sep
Reference Count: 0
Factors Influencing Children's Moral Evaluations of Aggressive Behavior.
Bath, Kent; And Others
The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which children's moral judgment of aggressive acts varies by grade level, sex, race, and two dimentions of situational context -- namely, the type of aggression and the presence and type of mitigation. Subjects were 24 first grade and 24 sixth grade students. Within each grade level there were six child subgroups of black males, black females, white males, and white females. Subjects were exposed to a physically aggressive act and to a verbally aggressive act, and then to the same acts with each of 3 mitigating circumstances attached to them. One mitigation described the aggressive act as being performed to prevent an accident; the other two described the aggressive act as resulting from a physical and a verbal provocation. Following this session, each child was asked to either assign punishment to the performer of the aggression or to indicate that no punishment should be assigned. Results showed that all three mitigations reduced the level of punishment below that assigned to the unmitigated aggressive acts; accident prevention produced the greatest reduction, and provocation produced lesser reductions. This pattern held across grade level, sex, race, and types of aggression. Physical aggression was punished more severely than verbal aggression when there was no mitigating circumstance. Under mitigating conditions, however, there were no type-of-aggression differences. Finally, in all conditions, first graders assigned more severe punishment than did sixth graders. These results suggest that contrary to Piaget's theory, children as young as 6 years old can respond to and differentiate among various forms of mitigating circumstances in making moral judgments. (Author/MP)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Mitigating Circumstances; Moral Judgment
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (88th, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, September 1-5, 1980).