Exclusion of Youth with Down Syndrome: Effects of Age, Moral Reasoning, and Past Experience

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Social exclusion can be detrimental to those who experience it (Killen, 1991). Experiences of exclusion can increase the likelihood of later internalizing and externalizing issues (Masten, Eisenberger et al., 2009; Denham, et al., 2017). Research among typically developing (TD) children and adolescents suggests that there is a curvilinear trend of exclusion, in that exclusion peaks during early adolescence (Malti, Strohmeier, & Killen, 2015; Damon, 1977; 1983). Additionally, research suggests that as youth get older they tend to use more morally based reasoning when deciding if they are going to include or exclude a peer (Smentana, et al., 2012; Wainryb, et al., 2005; Smentana, 2013). Past research has primarily focused on the exclusion of a TD peer, instead of a peer with a disability. A few seminal studies have demonstrated that those with a disability may be at a higher risk to be excluded when compared to TD peers (Gasser, Malti, & Buholzer, 2012). Additionally, past research suggests that positive past experiences may increase the likelihood to include a peer with a disability (Armstrong, et al., 2016; Nowicki, 2006). The current study found the expected curvilinear trend of excluding others, especially when the excluded peer had Down syndrome (DS), as well as the expected impact of both disability type and situation on rates of exclusion. Linear trends of moral reasoning with age were found in specific disability and situation interactions. However, the relationship between past experience and moral reasoning with exclusion was not substantiated.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Age effects, Down syndrome, Exclusion, Moral reasoning, Past experience, Physical disability