Children's conceptions of mutuality and reciprocity in peer relations
Rogers, Mary Jo
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The purpose of this research was to investigate children's conceptions of reciprocity and mutuality in peer relations. Previous research has indicated that children's ideas regarding reciprocity may be an important product of children's social experience, which may in turn play a role in reasoning about social issues. The first part of the study focused on children's evaluations of issues pertaining to victims' and witnesses' active responses to moral transgressions. The second part of the study involved children's evaluations of punishments alloted in response to moral, conventional, and prudential rule violations. Ninety children participated in the study. There were 30 children (15 girls and 15 boys) in each of three grades: second, fourth, and sixth. The children were individually administered a set of guestions in the context of a story about school rules. The subjects were asked what a peer would do and should do when he/she is a victim of a moral rule violation (e.g., when the child is pushed down), what a child would do and should do when he/she is a witness to moral transgression, and whether it would have been all right for a victim to have retaliated. The children were also asked to justify their responses to these questions. In the second part of the study, the children were asked whether a child should be punished for violating moral, conventional, and prudential rules. The children were additionally asked why the child should or should not be punished. In the final question, the children were asked to rate the importance of having a punishment for each of the violations. The findings of this study support previous research showing that children utilize direct reciprocity in monitoring peer relations. However, children also are able to conceptualize reasons for why retaliation is not legitimate. Children also demonstrate an understanding of punishment devoid of notions of direct reciprocity, and instead attempt to alleviate future negative consequences by educating peers about regulations.