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Children's understanding of social rules and social status

Nobes, Gavin; Pawson, Chris

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Gavin Nobes

Chris Pawson
Associate Professor in Applied Psychology and Behavioural Science


Children's understanding of social rules and authority was investigated by asking 4-9 year-olds (N = 129) about stories in which the status (adult or child) of rule inventors, transgressors, and changers was varied. The rules were conventions invented by adults and by children, cultural conventions, and morals. Judgments of transgressions and, in particular, alterations, were influenced by status as well as domain: Children considered transgressions and alterations by children less permissible than by adults, and adult-invented conventions less alterable than child-invented conventions. Alterations of adults' rules by children were thought almost as illegitimate as alterations of morals. Other influences on judgments included children's age, story content, and whether a convention was cultural or newly invented. These findings suggest an explanation of Piaget's findings that differs from his own.


Nobes, G., & Pawson, C. (2003). Children's understanding of social rules and social status. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 49(1), 77-99.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2003
Publicly Available Date Jun 9, 2019
Journal Merrill-Palmer Quarterly
Print ISSN 0272-930X
Publisher Wayne State University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 49
Issue 1
Pages 77-99
Keywords children, social rules, social status
Public URL
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