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This study examined preschool children's conceptions of moral and social-conventional rules. 44 children between the ages of 2-6 and 4-9 were divided into 2 groups of 21 and 23 children according to age (X̄=3-3, 4-2). Children made judgments concerning the seriousness, rule contingency, rule relativism, and amount of deserved punishment for 10 (depicted) moral and conventional preschool transgressions. Analyses of variance with age and sex as between-group factors and domain as the within-group factor indicated that, constant across both sexes and the ages studied, children evaluated moral transgressions as more serious offenses and as more deserving of punishment than conventional transgressions. Moreover, moral events were less likely than conventional events to be regarded as contingent on the presence of a rule and relative to the social context. Test-retest reliability of the ratings of the seriousness of transgressions was .66 over a 2-3 week period. The findings were discussed in relation to the developmental differentiation model and the distinct conceptual domain approach.
Child Development © 1981 Society for Research in Child Development