Tisak and Turiel on moral and prudential rules

Tisak, M. S., & Turiel, E. (1984). Children’s Conceptions of Moral and Prudential Rules. CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 55(3), 1030–1039.

This article examines the relationship between moral and prudential rules in children. Moral and prudential events are similar in that they may involve consequences (for example, harm) to persons, but also differ in that morality bears upon social relations and prudence does not. The researchers interviewed children by using scripts depicting transgressions of moral (stealing, pushing) and prudential (running in the rain) rules. Participants were between 6 and 10 years of age. The authors conclude that 6-year-old children can already differentiate between moral and prudential rules. Children’s evaluations of moral and prudential rules are very similar in many respects; however, the authors claim that the reasons given in justification of moral rules focus on both consequences (harm) and the regulation of social relations (justice, fairness), while justification for the prudential rule is based only on consequences. Moral rules were also attributed more importance than prudential rules. As is typical in Moral Domain Theory, the interview is purely verbal and children are required to provide explicit justifications for their judgments. As a side note, I have a problem with Turiel’s prose: it’s dry and boring. But that’s my problem, I guess. (I know, this is supposed to be science, not literature).

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