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God's Word, Religious Rules, and Their Relation to Christian and Jewish Children's Concepts of Morality

Larry Nucci and Elliot Turiel
Child Development
Vol. 64, No. 5 (Oct., 1993), pp. 1475-1491
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1131547
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131547
Page Count: 17
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God's Word, Religious Rules, and Their Relation to Christian and Jewish Children's Concepts of Morality
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Abstract

2 studies were conducted of children's concepts of moral and nonmoral religious rules. In Study 1, 64 Amish-Mennonite children (ages 10, 12, 14, 16) were asked to evaluate 4 moral and 7 nonmoral religious rules as to rule alterability, generalizability, and whether the status of the acts was contingent on the word of God. As a second aspect of Study 1, 64 Dutch Reform Calvinist children were asked to determine whether God's commands could make a harmful act morally right. Study 2 replicated the basic design of Study 1 with 64 Conservative and 32 Orthodox Jewish children. Findings were that subjects differentiated between moral and nonmoral religious issues. Moral rules and some nonmoral rules were seen as nonalterable by religious authorities. The status of moral (but not nonmoral) acts was generalized to members outside the religion and was not viewed as contingent on the existence of statements from God. Judgments regarding moral issues were justified in terms of justice and human welfare considerations; nonmoral issues were evaluated in terms of their normative status. Some denominational and age effects were found. Findings supported the proposition that social knowledge is constructed within conceptual systems that represent fundamental categories of social experience.

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