The Development of Moral Foundations in 2- and 4-Year-Olds
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This dissertation examined moral development in children using Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) as a guiding framework. MFT states that there are several moral ‘foundations’, or areas in which we may hold moral values and beliefs. MFT also asserts that moral foundations have both innate and environmental influences. The moral foundations examined in this dissertation were care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Therefore, relative to existing literature, this dissertation examined moral development from a broader perspective and at a younger age (for specific foundations). One hundred and seventy-eight children (102 2-year-olds, 76 4-year-olds) were included in this dissertation, as well as their parents. All children completed the Moral Foundations Puppet Task (MFPT), where they watched puppets doing good or bad acts relevant to each foundation. They subsequently indicated which puppet they preferred, and which puppet was bad. Only 4-year-olds completed the Moral Foundations Questionnaire for Kids (MFQK), a verbal measure of their sensitivity to each foundation and social norm violations. Parents completed the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ; Graham et al., 2011), an adult measure of moral foundations. Analyses conducted in Chapter 3 revealed that 2-year-olds’ puppet choices did not differ significantly from chance on the MFPT. Four-year-olds were sensitive to the care, fairness, authority, and sanctity foundations, while their puppet choices for the loyalty foundation did not differ significantly from chance. Chapter 4 examined 4-year-olds’ responses on the MFQK. The pattern of responses was consistent with the MFPT; 4-year-olds were more sensitive to care, fairness, authority, and sanctity, and less sensitive to loyalty (and social norm violations) on the MFQK. Finally, Chapter 5 examined relationships between parents’ and children’s moral concerns. In general, few relationships were found, and those found were unexpected and difficult to predict. However, using parents’ responses on the MFQ, previous relationships between moral foundations and political orientation were replicated. Overall, the current dissertation supports the existence of moral beliefs outside of care and fairness in young children. It highlights that greater diversity of approaches and methods is warranted in moral development research. It also provides useful future directions in the study of MFT and moral development.