Maltreated and nonmaltreated preschoolers' conceptions of hypothetical and actual moral transgressions.

J. G. Smetana, S. L. Toth, Dante Cicchetti, J. Bruce, P. Kane, C. Daddis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Maltreated and nonmaltreated preschoolers' (mean age = 4 years 6 months) judgments regarding hypothetical and actual moral transgressions were examined. Thirty-six maltreated children (17 physically abused and 19 neglected) and 19 comparison nonmaltreated children judged, justified, and evaluated affective responses to 6 hypothetical moral transgressions. Perpetrators and victims also judged and evaluated affective responses to actual classroom moral transgressions. All children evaluated moral transgressions as very serious, punishable, and wrong in the absence of rules. Moral judgments and justifications differed as a function of context (hypothetical vs. actual) and type of transgression but not maltreatment status. Affective responses differed as a function of maltreatment subtype and gender. Maltreated and nonmaltreated children may differ in the organization of their affective responses rather than in their moral evaluations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-281
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


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