The child’s conception of mens rea: Information mitigating punishment judgments
Sixty-two children forming two age groups (6 and 11 years) were given information about hypothetical peers who were described as hitting the S. Children indicated how much they thought the peer should be punished (spanked). Older Ss put more emphasis on situational or personal information about transgressions than did younger Ss in deciding how severely a child should be punished. The order of mitigation of information (from most to least mitigating) was as follows: Provocation, duress, emotional maladjustment, with chronic transgressors punished more than all other transgressors. External contraints were more mitigating than internal constraints. For six-year-old children, the only mitigating factor was provocation. Male transgressors were punished more than female transgressors, and male Ss found duress and lack of chronicity of transgressions to be more mitigating than did female Ss. The findings were discussed in terms of Piaget’s moral judgment theory, the development of causal schemes of attribution, and theory of jurisprudence. © 1979 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
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