Children’s Developing Understanding of the Conventionality of Rules


Journal Article

© 2017 Taylor & Francis. Much research has investigated how children relate to norms taught to them by adult authorities. Very few studies have investigated norms that arise out of children’s own peer interactions. In two studies, we investigated how 5- and 7-year-old children teach, enforce, and understand rules that they either created themselves or were taught by an adult. Children (N = 240) were asked to either invent game rules on their own or were taught these exact same rules by an adult (yoked design). Children of both ages enforced and transmitted the rules in a normative way, regardless of whether they had invented them or were taught the rules by an adult, suggesting that they viewed even their own self-made rules as normatively binding. However, creating the rules led 5-year-old children to understand them as much more changeable as compared with adult-taught rules. Seven-year-olds, in contrast, regarded both kinds of rules as equally changeable, indeed allowing fewer changes to their self-created rules than 5-year-olds. While the process of creating rules seemed to enlighten preschoolers’ understanding of the conventionality of the rules, school-aged children regarded both self-created rules and adult-taught rules in a similar manner, suggesting a deeper understanding of rule normativity as arising from social agreement and commitment.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hardecker, S; Schmidt, MFH; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • March 15, 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 18 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 163 - 188

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1532-7647

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1524-8372

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/15248372.2016.1255624

Citation Source

  • Scopus