Development of Moral Concern

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Description: Prominent theorists have made the argument that modern humans express moral concern for a greater number of entities than at any other time in our past. Moreover, adults show stable patterns in the degrees of concern they afford certain entities over others, yet it remains unknown when and how these patterns of moral decision-making manifest in development. Children aged 4 to 10 years (N = 151) placed 24 pictures of human, animal, and environmental entities on a stratified circle representing three levels of moral concern. Although younger and older children expressed similar overall levels of moral concern, older children demonstrated a more graded understanding of concern by including more entities within the outer reaches of their moral circles (i.e., they were less likely to view moral inclusion as a simple in vs. out binary decision). With age children extended greater concern to humans than other forms of life, and more concern to vulnerable groups, such as the sick and disabled. Notably, children’s level of concern for human entities predicted their prosocial behavior. The current research provides novel insights into the development of our moral reasoning and its structure within childhood.

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