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
Date Written: May 1999
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: Suggested Citation