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Abstract

Do children use their own moral judgments as a template against which to judge a parent’s fairness, and does that depend on the child’s age? Piaget’s concept of objective-to-subjective responsibility (a focus on outcome to a focus on intentions) was the template for the current study. The research question was how do children of different ages evaluate the fairness of mothers’ praise/blame for acts featuring different combinations of good/bad intentions and outcome. Forty-eight children (ages 3–11 years) heard two stories in which the outcome did not match the intentions. There were two versions of each story type: In one, the mother praised the child in the story; in the other, she blamed the child. Findings were that (a) children under 7 judged mothers who praised as fair and mothers who blamed as unfair regardless of the intentionality of the act, whereas (b) children 7 and older judged fairness based on consistency of mother’s reaction with the child protagonist’s intentions, thus using moral intentionality as a template to evaluate fairness.

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