Heterogeneity in children’s developing moral judgments about different types of harm.

The patterning of 160 U.S. 4- to 9-year-olds’ (M = 6.23 years, SD = 1.46) moral judgments regarding physical harm, psychological harm, and unfair resource distribution transgressions were examined in separate latent profile analyses. Judgments regarding physical harm yielded a single Prototypical profile, where transgressions were judged as very unacceptable, punishable, wrong even if not regulated, intentional, harmful, and as causing very negative emotions for victims. A similar Prototypical profile, as well as an Emergent profile, was extracted for both unfair resource distribution and psychological harm; children in the Emergent profile evaluated transgressions as more acceptable, particularly when rules and authority were removed, less punishable, less intentional, and less harmful than did Prototypical children. In addition, psychological harm was characterized by a small Inconsistent profile, where children judged moral transgressions as very acceptable but also as intentional and harmful. Profiles were differentiated by child age and authority independence justifications, but not by individual differences in social competence, gender, or act acceptability justifications. Children in the Inconsistent profile for psychological harm or in the Emergent profile for unfair resource distribution were younger than children in the other profile(s) for the respective harm type. Children who were classified in the Prototypical (or the Emergent) profile when judging unequal distribution were more likely than would be expected by chance to be classified in the equivalent profile when evaluating psychological harm transgressions. The results show that moral judgments are organized and reflect age differences in children’s moral understanding of different types of harms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)