Affiliations: The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, NY, USA
Address for correspondence: Yoko Takagi or Herbert D. Saltzstein, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, 365 fifth Ave., New York, NY 10016, USA. [email protected] or [email protected].
Note:  This research was supported in part by the Doctoral Student Research Grant awarded to the first author and a PSC-CUNY research grant to the second author. The authors would like to thank Naomi Aldrich, Mirella Brussani, Grace Ho, Cristina Medellin-Paz, Vienna Messina, and Hiroshi Takagi for their assistance in collecting and analyzing the data; and Joan Miller, Judith Smetana, Jon Taylor, and Elliot Turiel for their comments of an earlier initial draft.
Abstract: Twenty-four parents, mothers or fathers, of 3–5 year old children in a pre-school nursery kept diaries of problematic encounters within the family. Two of these encounters were later presented as ‘pretend’ stories to that child who made judgments of and emotionally reacted as if he/she were the story actor including giving reasons for complying. Encounters were coded into different domains (moral, social-conventional, prudential, etc.), and children’s reactions compared across domains within each pair of encounters. Instead of the standard “right”/”wrong” question, the children were asked why they would/wouldn’t commit the transgression again. All children said that they wouldn’t do it again, but their reasons were more often congruent or consistent with the nature of prudential than of other kinds of transgressions, especially than moral transgressions. This suggests that while children may know “right from wrong,” they do not see it as relevant to their moral behavior.
Keywords: Moral development, early childhood, every-day transgressions, parental diary, affective and cognitive reactions