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Developmental Psychology Section

Children's understanding of equity in the context of inequality

In the context of a pre-existing resource inequality, the concerns for strict equality (allocating the same number of resources to all recipients) conflict with the concerns for equity (allocating resources to rectify the inequality). This study demonstrated age-related changes in children's (3–8 years old, = 133) ability to simultaneously weigh the concerns for equality and equity through the analysis of children's judgements, allocations, and reasoning in the context of a pre-existing inequality. Three- to 4-year-olds took equity into account in their judgements of allocations, but allocated resources equally in a behavioural task. In contrast, 5- to 6-year-olds rectified the inequality in their allocations, but judged both equitable and equal allocations to be fair. It was not until 7–8 years old that children focused on rectifying the inequality in their allocations and judgements, as well as judged equal allocations less positively than equitable allocations, thereby demonstrating a more complete understanding of the necessity of rectifying inequalities. The novel findings revealed age-related changes from 3 to 8 years old regarding how the concerns for equity and equality develop, and how children's judgements, allocations, and reasoning are coordinated when making allocation decisions.

 

Rizzo, M. T. and Killen, M. (2016), Children's understanding of equity in the context of inequality. British Journal of Developmental Psychology. doi: 10.1111/bjdp.12150