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Toddlers' Social Interactions regarding Moral and Conventional Transgressions

Judith G. Smetana
Child Development
Vol. 55, No. 5 (Oct., 1984), pp. 1767-1776
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1129924
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1129924
Page Count: 10
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Toddlers' Social Interactions regarding Moral and Conventional Transgressions
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Abstract

In this study, social interactions regarding moral and conventional transgressions were observed among 2 age groups of toddlers. 16 daycare-center classrooms, 8 serving 13-27-month-old (X̄ = 20.76) and 8 serving 18-40-month-old (X̄ = 30.08) toddlers, were each observed for 3 45-min sessions. All responses to transgressions were scored on a standard checklist adapted from Nucci and Turiel. The results indicated that the frequency of responses to transgressions in the 2 domains differed by age; responses to moral transgressions were found to be more frequent among younger toddlers, while responses to conventional transgressions were more frequent among older toddlers. Among both age groups, caregivers but not children responded to conventional transgressions. Caregivers and children responded to moral transgressions, but there were fewer caregiver responses to older than to younger children's moral transgressions. Commands and, less frequently, statements pertaining to aspects of social organization were associated with caregiver responses to all conventional transgressions. Sequential analyses indicated that following a moral transgression, either caregivers attempted to maintain social control through commands, physical restraint, or attempts to divert attention, or child victims responded by providing feedback regarding the consequences of the transgression. The latter, in turn, resulted in adult statements regarding the intrinsic wrongness of the acts. The implications of these results for the developmental origins of distinctions between morality and convention are discussed.

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