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Children's Conceptions of Fair Government and Freedom of Speech

Charles C. Helwig
Child Development
Vol. 69, No. 2 (Apr., 1998), pp. 518-531
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1132181
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1132181
Page Count: 14
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Children's Conceptions of Fair Government and Freedom of Speech
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Abstract

This study used judgments about prototypical cases of democratic and nondemocratic systems of government and freedom of speech to investigate children's developing notions of political fairness and democracy. Seventy-two children between the ages of 6 and 11 years made judgments of fairness and preference for 5 systems of government: representative democracy, direct democracy, democracy by strict consensus, pure meritocracy, and pure oligarchy. Judgments of freedom of speech in general and in conflict with systems of government were also assessed. Concepts of political fairness were applied at all ages to evaluate the various governmental systems and to reject the nondemocratic alternatives. Older children were more likely than younger children to consider the pragmatic and moral consequences associated with particular systems of government. Older children also made use of a broader set of rationales than younger children to justify freedom of speech and displayed a greater ability to coordinate political concepts in situations in which they conflict with one another.

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