The moral dimension of children's and adolescents' conceptualisation of tolerance to human diversity

Journal of Moral Education (Impact Factor: 0.69). 12/2007; 36:433-451. DOI: 10.1080/03057240701688002

ABSTRACT This study examined the kinds of justifications children and adolescents used to support tolerant and intolerant judgements about human diversity. For the tolerant responses, three main belief categories emerged, based on the beliefs that others should be treated fairly (fairness), empathetically (empathy) and that reason/logic ought to govern judgements (reasonableness). Fairness emerged as the most used belief to support tolerant judgements and the most commonly used combination of beliefs was found to be fairness/empathy, linking tolerance to moral reasoning, rules and values. Specifically noticeable was that 6–7‐year‐olds appealed to fairness more often in comparison to the 11–12 and 15–16‐year‐olds. Older students used a larger repertoire of beliefs to support tolerance, indicating developing cognitive maturity. There was also a tendency for females to appeal to fairness/empathy more often than males. The major constraint to positive tolerance was not prejudice toward the target groups but the adolescents' beliefs in freedom of speech as a democratic right, pointing to a conflict in values between tolerance and other human rights.

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