Preschoolers' Moral Judgments About Illness and Treatment: Who's Bad?

USC Law School, Olin Working Paper No. 99-3

26 Pages Posted: 6 May 1999

See all articles by Pamela M. Kato

Pamela M. Kato

Stanford University - School of Medicine

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

John Flavell

Stanford University - Psychology

Raquel S. Klibanoff

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Robin T Higashi

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Lynne C. Huffman

Stanford University - School of Medicine

Date Written: May 1999

Abstract

In this study, we examined why and how preschoolers are able to reason about the moral aspects of illness and treatment with a simple interview that was designed to be sensitive to the abilities of this age group. A total of ninety-six 3- and 4-year-olds were asked to make moral judgments about illness and treatment. The results show that most preschoolers do not associate illness or treatment with wrongdoing. In Experiment 1, an overwhelmingly large proportion of participants distinguished between story children who were sick and story children who committed prudential violations (misbehaviors that harmed the self) by correctly identifying the latter characters as having done something "bad." In Experiment 2, a significant proportion of participants stated that story children who were sick or treated were not "bad," although they tended to make more harsh judgments about treated than ill children. The findings are discussed in terms of their theoretical and clinical significance in health care settings.

Suggested Citation

Kato, Pamela M. and Lyon, Thomas D. and Flavell, John and Klibanoff, Raquel S. and Higashi, Robin T and Huffman, Lynne C., Preschoolers' Moral Judgments About Illness and Treatment: Who's Bad? (May 1999). USC Law School, Olin Working Paper No. 99-3. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=161191 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.161191

Pamela M. Kato

Stanford University - School of Medicine ( email )

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Thomas D. Lyon (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-0142 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

John Flavell

Stanford University - Psychology ( email )

Building 420, Room 290
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650-725-2426 (Phone)

Raquel S. Klibanoff

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Robin T Higashi

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Lynne C. Huffman

Stanford University - School of Medicine ( email )

Pediatrics
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
(650) 326-5530 (Phone)
(650) 725-8347 (Fax)

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