Does group membership affect children's judgments of social transgressions?
Children judge moral transgressions as more serious and more punish-worthy than conventional transgressions (Slomkowski & Killen, 1992; Smetana, 1981). Children also judge the actions of in-group members more favorably than those of out-group members (Aboud, 2003; Zak & Knack, 2001). The current study asked whether children would judge moral and conventional transgressions committed by an in-group member differently when compared to the same acts committed by an out-group member (i.e., act judgments). Additionally, it asked whether children would judge the transgressors themselves differently based on their group status (i.e., in-group, out-group, neutral, and self). Results show that preschool children reliably judge moral and conventional transgressions differently. Compared to children’s judgments of out-group members, their judgments of in-group members were more lenient. Results suggest that group membership does indeed affect how serious or punish-worthy a violation and a violator are judged to be.