Children's and adults' views of punishment as a path to redemption

Child Development (forthcoming)
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Abstract

The current work investigated the extent to which children (N=171 6- to 8-year-olds) and adults (N = 94) view punishment as redemptive. In Study 1, children—but not adults—reported that “mean” individuals became “nicer” after one severe form of punishment (incarceration). Moreover, adults expected “nice” individuals’ moral character to worsen following punishment; however, we did not find that children expected such a change. Study 2 extended these findings by showing that children view “mean” individuals as becoming “nicer” following both severe (incarceration) and relatively minor (time-out) punishments, suggesting that the pattern of results from Study 1 generalizes across punishment types. Together, these studies indicate that chil- dren—but not adults—may view punishment as a vehicle for redemption.

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