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Children's Conceptions of Moral and Prudential Rules

Marie S. Tisak and Elliot Turiel
Child Development
Vol. 55, No. 3 (Jun., 1984), pp. 1030-1039
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130154
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130154
Page Count: 10
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Children's Conceptions of Moral and Prudential Rules
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Abstract

Children's concepts of moral and prudential rules were assessed in this study. Moral and prudential events are similar in that they may involve consequences to persons, but also differ in that morality bears upon social relations and prudence does not. The purpose of the study was to determine whether children differentiate between the social-interactional, moral aspects of harm and the nonsocial, prudential aspects of harm. 90 subjects (ages, 6, 8, and 10 years) were administered an interview about 2 moral rules (pertaining to hitting and theft) and 1 prudential rule. 3 types of assessment were obtained: criterion judgments (evaluation, authority and rule contingency, generalizability), justifications, and attributions of importance. The findings showed that most subjects regard moral and prudential rules as useful, their violation as wrong, the validity of the actions as noncontingent on rules or authority, and as generalizable; these effects were stronger for the moral than the prudential rules, with more older children distinguishing the 2 rule types. However, the reasons given in justification of moral rules focused on both consequences and the regulation of social relations, while justification for the prudential rule was based only on consequences. Moral rules were attributed more importance than the prudential rule. The pattern of findings indicates that children differentiate between consequences and regulation of social interactions.

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