Effects of provocation on maltreated and nonmaltreated preschoolers' understanding of moral transgressions

Judith G. Smetana, Christopher Daddis, Sheree L. Toth, Dante Cicchetti, Jacqueline Bruce, Peter Kane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study examined maltreated and nonmaltreated preschool children's judgments regarding hypothetical provoked and unprovoked moral transgressions. Maltreated children (17 physically abused and 19 neglected) and 19 matched nonmaltreated children rated the severity and deserved punishment and evaluated affective responses to six hypothetical moral transgressions which were depicted as both unprovoked and provoked by another child's actions. All children rated unprovoked transgressions as more serious and deserving of punishment and as eliciting more happiness and fear and less anger than transgressions that were depicted as provoked by another's actions. No gender or maltreatment status differences in ratings of transgression severity and deserved punishment were found; however, patterns of affective responses to hypothetical transgressions differed as a function of maltreatment subtype. Findings are discussed in terms of previous research on maltreatment and moral judgment development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-348
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Development
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Maltreatment
  • Moral behavior
  • Social cognition

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