Reciprocal Associations Between Young Children’s Developing Moral Judgments and Theory of Mind

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Abstract

Associations between young children’s developing theory of mind (ToM) and judgments of prototypical moral transgressions were examined 3 times across 1 year in 70 American middle class 2.5- to 4-year-olds. Separate path models controlling for cross-time stability in judgments, within-time associ-ations, and children’s age at Wave 1 indicated that across both 6-month intervals, children who evaluated moral acts as more wrong independent of authority had more mature ToM 6 months later; in addition, judgments of moral transgressions as less permissible at Wave 2 also led to more advanced ToM at Wave 3. Children with more advanced ToM judged that moral rules are more alterable, however, and rated moral transgressions as less deserving of punishment. Finally, more advanced ToM initially led to evaluations of moral transgressions as less independent of rules and then to judgments of moral transgressions as more independent of rules. During the preschool years, early moral judgments and theory of mind appear to develop as reciprocal, bidirectional processes.

Publication
Developmental Psychology, 48
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