Moral Development

Topics: Psychology, Developmental psychology, Sociology Pages: 14 (4071 words) Published: June 10, 2011
Current Directions in Psychological Science Children's Social and Moral Reasoning About Exclusion Melanie Killen Current Directions in Psychological Science 2007 16: 32 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2007.00470.x The online version of this article can be found at:

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Children’s Social and Moral Reasoning About Exclusion
Melanie Killen University of Maryland
research on social and moral reasoning about exclusion has utilized a social-domain theory, in contrast to a global stage theory, to investigate children’s evaluations of gender- and race-based peer exclusion. The social-domain model postulates that moral, social-conventional, and personal reasoning coexist in children’s evaluations of inclusion and exclusion, and that the priority given to these forms of judgments varies by the age of the child, the context, and the target of exclusion. Findings from developmental intergroup research studies disconfirm a general-stage-model approach to morality in the child, and provide empirical data on the developmental origins and emergence of intergroup attitudes regarding prejudice, bias, and exclusion. KEYWORDS—social ABSTRACT—Developmental

reasoning; exclusion; intergroup attitudes; moral judgment How early do individuals become capable of moral reasoning? What is the evidence for morality in the child? Over the past two decades, research on children’s moral judgment has changed dramatically, providing new theories and methods for analysis. In brief, the change has been away from a global stage model toward domain-specific models of development. According to Kohlberg’s foundational stage model of moral development (Kohlberg, 1984), which followed Piaget’s research on moral judgment (Piaget, 1932), children justify acts as right or wrong first on the basis of consequences to the self (preconventional), then in terms of group norms (conventional), and finally in terms of a justice perspective in which individual principles of how to treat one another are understood (postconventional). This approach involved assessing an individual’s general scheme (organizing principle) for evaluating social problems and dilemmas across a range of contexts.

Address correspondence to Melanie Killen, 3304 Benjamin Building, Department of Human Development, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-1131; e-mail:

By the mid-1980s, however, studies of contextual variation in judgments provided extensive evidence contesting broad stages (Smetana, 2006; Turiel, 1998). For example, young children’s evaluations of transgressions and social events reflect considerations of the self, the group, and justice; these considerations do not emerge hierarchically (respectively) but simultaneously in development, each with its own separate developmental trajectory (e.g., self-knowledge, group knowledge, and moral knowledge). Thus, multiple forms of reasoning are applied to the evaluations of social dilemmas and interactions. Social judgments do not reflect one broad template or stage, such as Kohlberg’s preconventional stage to characterize childhood morality. Instead, children use different forms of reasoning, moral, conventional, and psychological, simultaneously when evaluating transgressions and social events. One area of recent empirical inquiry pertains to social and moral evaluations of decisions to exclude others, particularly on...

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