Child Development 138 (03) - Hembree
Social and Emotional Development
California State University, Sacramento
Spring, 2011 


Observation #2

Moral Reasoning


Assignment Objectives:

  1. to introduce students to age changes in moral reasoning, specifically about the fair distribution of rewards (positive justice)

  2. to introduce students to measurement issues associated with interview methodology

  3. to expose students to concepts associated with inferential statistics by providing the opportunity to conduct such tests on class data



For this assignment, you will conduct an interview with two children from TWO different age groups: Kindergarten/1st grade, 3rd/4th grade, OR 6th/7th grade (Try to choose children of different gender). The interview is designed to assess children's reasoning about positive/distributive justice, i.e., the fair distribution of goods. YOU MAY CONDUCT THE INTERVIEWS WITH A PARTNER SO THAT YOU ONLY INTERVIEW ONE CHILD EACH. As a class, we will compile our data to test for age differences in distributive justice reasoning.

NOTE: Before conducting this observation, you will need to read pp. 323-337 in your text and Supplementary Reading #2 (Sigelman & Waitzman, 1991), on which the observation is based.  BE SURE TO READ OVER THIS HANDOUT THOROUGHLY BEFORE CONDUCTING YOUR INTERVIEWS.

Materials needed for observation:


Note: Use girl pictures, names and pronouns when interviewing girls, boy pictures, names, and pronouns when interviewing boys. Instructions are written in CAPITAL LETTERS.

Find a quiet place away from distractions and seat yourself directly in front of the child. Spend some time talking and developing rapport, then introduce the task by letting the child know that you have a story to tell him/her and you'd like his/her opinion about what happens in the story. You are interested in what the child thinks (emphasize that there are no right or wrong answers).

Bring out the pictures (girl pictures for girls and boy pictures for boys) and the pretend money, and conduct the allocation rating task using the bar graph scale to obtain fairness judgments. Record the child's responses on Appendix A.

Introduce the task using the following script and materials:

These three children all go to the same school. They are in the same classroom and are good friends. After school, they all work to paint pictures for the school festival. Their teacher sells the pictures at the school festival for 9 dollars.

[POINT TO PICTURE A]. This is Amy/Alan. She/he is the oldest one.

[POINT TO PICTURE B] This is Donna/Donny. She/he works really hard and paints the most pictures.

[POINT TO PICTURE C] This is Judy/Jeffrey. Her/his family does not have enough money for food, clothes, or toys.

Next , you will give the child four different possible distribution solutions and ask him/her to rate how fair each solution is, using the graph provided in the materials. Each scenario represents a different distribution principle (i.e., equity, merit. etc.).

First, you'll need to explain the rating chart. Show it to the child and say:

Now I'm going to pretend that I am the teacher and divide up the money in a few different ways. I'd like you to tell me how fair it would be to divide it up these different ways. I'd like you to point to the bar that shows how fair each situation is. Some of the times it will be unfair and sometimes it will be fair. If you think it is very unfair, point to this bar, sort of unfair, point to this bar...[EXPLAIN EACH OF THE FOUR OPTIONS ON THE BAR GRAPH]

[TEST FOR COMPREHENSION] For example, if the teacher kept all of the money for herself, how fair do you think that would be? [IF THE CHILD POINTS TO ANYTHING OTHER THAN "VERY UNFAIR", GO OVER THE USE OF THE CHART AGAIN].

Then use the money to demonstrate the following scenarios, giving the accompanying script and recording on the code sheet the number corresponding to the child's rating:

1) Equality - [PLACE THREE DOLLARS NEXT TO EACH CHILD] "If the teacher gave each child three dollars, how fair do you think that would be?" [RECORD ANSWER]

2) Age - [PLACE 5 DOLLARS NEXT TO AMY/ALAN, TWO DOLLARS EACH TO THE OTHERS] "If the teacher gave the most money to Amy/Alan, the oldest child, how fair do you think that would be?" [RECORD ANSWER]

3) Merit - [PLACE 5 DOLLARS NEXT TO DONNA/DONNY, TWO DOLLARS EACH TO THE OTHERS] "If the teacher gave the most money to Donna/Donny, the one who made the most paintings, how fair do you think that would be?" [RECORD ANSWER]

4) Need - [PLACE 5 DOLLARS NEXT TO JUDY/JEFFREY, TWO DOLLARS EACH TO THE OTHERS] "If the teacher gave the most money to Judy/Jeffrey, the one who needs money the most, how fair do you think that would be?" [RECORD ANSWER]

Thanks!  You've been really helpful.

Record your observations on the attached code sheet (Appendix A)

The completed Appendix (observation) is due MONDAY, April 18th.



Please respond to the following questions (word processed, please):

1) Briefly summarize the method/results of the Sigelman and Waitzman (1991) study. 

2) What did we hypothesize in the current study? What did we expect to observe in the class sample?

3) Describe the individual children you interviewed and the total class sample. Briefly summarize the procedure employed in this study.

4) What did you find in your individual interviews? Were your observations consistent with what we expected to observe?

5) What were the results of the class sample? What statistical test(s) were employed and what were the results of the test(s)? Attach a copy of the competed table 1 as well as your appendix. 

6) Did our results support our hypothesis?  Why or why not? 

7) Discuss the efficacy of the procedure and materials we used. Was the interview a valid assessment of distributive justice development in children?  Why or why not? How should the procedure be improved? 

8) What future research questions do you think might be interesting to ask on this subject? Why?

Written Report/Reflection due WEDNESDAY, May 4th.


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Send problems, comments or suggestions to:

California State University, Sacramento
College of Education
Department of Child Development

Updated: January, 2011

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