Moral Development

One area of recent empirical inquiry pertains to social and moral evaluations of decisions to exclude others, particularly on the basis of group membership (such as gender, race, or ethnicity), referred to as interrupt exclusion. What makes this form of exclusion a particularly compelling topic for investigation from a moral viewpoint is that it reflects, on the one hand, prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, and bias about groups, and, on the other hand, Judgments about fairness, equality, and rights (Killeen, Lee-Kim, McLaughlin, & Stanton, 2002).

Conceptually, these Judgments are diametrically opposed; prejudice violates moral principles of fairness, discrimination violates equality, and stereotyping restricts individual rights. Do both forms of reasoning exist within the child? What do children do when confronted with an exclusion decision that involves moral considerations of fairness and equal treatment, on the one hand, and stereotypic and social-conventional expectations, on the other? A social-domain model proposes that morality includes fairness, Justice, rights, and others’ welfare (e. . , when a victim is involved; “It wouldn’t be fair to exclude him from the game”); social-conventional concerns involve conventions, etiquette, and customs that promote effective group functioning (e. G. , when disorder in the group occurs; “If you let someone new in the group they won’t know how it works or what it’s about and it will be disruptive”); and psychological issues pertain to autonomy, 32 Copyright r 2007 Association for Psychological Science Downloaded from Volume 16?Number 1 Melanie Killeen individual prerogatives, and identity (e. G. Acts that are not regulated but affect only the self; “It’s her decision who she wants to be friends with”). Social-domain-theory approaches to moral reasoning, along with social-psychological theories about interrupt attitudes, provide a new approach to understanding social exclusion. Social exclusion is a pervasive aspect of social life, ranging from everyday events (e. G. , exclusion from birthday parties, sports teams, social organizations) to large-scale social tragedies (e. G. , exclusion based on religion and ethnicity resulting in genocide).

These forms of individualized and interrupt exclusion create conflict, tension, and, in extreme cases, chronic suffering. In the child’s world, exclusion has been studied cost often in the context of individualized, rather than interrupt, conflict. Research on peer rejection and factorization, for example, has focused on individual differences and the social deficits that contribute to being a bully (lack of social competence) or a victim (wariness, shyness, fearfulness; Rubin, Bouzoukis, & Parker, 1998).

The findings indicate that the longer consequences for children and adults who experience pervasive exclusion are negative, resulting in depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Recently, developmental researchers have investigated children’s evaluations of interrupt exclusion (e. . , You’re an X and we don’t want Xx in our group”). Decisions to exclude others involve a range of reasons, from group norms and stereotypic expectations to moral assessments about the fairness of exclusion.

Much of what is known about group norms has been documented by social psychologists, who have conducted extensive studies on interrupt relationships. The findings indicate that social categorization frequently leads to interrupt bias and that explicit and implicit attitudes about others based on group membership contribute to prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes and behavior (Dovish, Click, & Roadman, 2005). Few researchers, however, have examined the developmental trajectory of exclusion from a moral-reasoning perspective.

Social-domain theory has provided a taxonomy for examining the forms of reasoning?moral, social-conventional, and psychological? that are brought to bear on interrupt exclusion decisions. One way that a social- domain model differs from the traditional stage model of moral reasoning, as formulated by Goldberg in the late sass, is that the former provides a theory and a methodology for examining how individuals use different forms of reasons when evaluating everyday phenomena.