Paul C. Stey, Daniel Lapsley & Mary O. McKeever
European Journal of Developmental Psychology
Volume 10, Issue 2, 2013
This study investigated the application and justification of three principles of harm in a cross-sectional sample of adolescents in order to test recent theories concerning the source of intuitive moral judgements. Participants were 46 early (M age = 14.8 years) and 40 late adolescents (M age = 17.8 years). Participants rated the permissibility of various ethical dilemmas, and provided justifications for their judgements. Results indicated participants aligned their judgements with the three principles of harm, but had difficulty explaining their reasoning. Furthermore, although age groups were consistent in the application of the principles of harm, age differences emerged in their justifications. These differences were partly explained by differences in language ability. Additionally, participants who used emotional language in their justifications demonstrated a characteristically deontological pattern of moral judgement on certain dilemmas. We conclude adolescents in this age range apply the principles of harm but that the ability to explain their judgements is still developing.
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