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The attribution of personal responsibility: A developmental study.

Docking, James W. (1986) The attribution of personal responsibility: A developmental study. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

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This thesis addresses three questions concerned with children's attributions of responsibility to others for behavioural outcomes involving injury. The first question explored hypotheses concerned with developmental differences in relation to Heider's (1958) levels of responsibility. Subjects ranged from middle childhood to early adulthood. Although judgements became increasingly differentiated with age, even the youngest subjects could make significant discriminations, especially if given time to compare and revise evaluations. Other findings demonstrated that attributions of cause differed from those of blame and punishment; the latter were strongly interrelated. The second question concerned Individual differences in children's attributional style. No clear link was found with Intelligence; but significant effects were found for locus of control under conditions where an actor, whose guilt was ambiguous, was perceived as personally similar to the subject. For some results, however, the effects were more pronounced with girls. It was also demonstrated that locus of control in interpersonal situations is not a unidimensional construct. The third question concerned attributions to a victim. Support was found for the hypothesis that judgements would vary as a function of the victim's virtue and subjects' age. Results of this experimental investigation are interpreted in the context of attribution theory, social learning theory, cognitive developmental theory, and 'dust world' theory. It is concluded that the conditions in which judgements are made significantly affect the ability of young children to attribute responsibility in terms of Heider's model; that children's attributions to others are related to their locus of control orientations, but not straightforwardly; and that children's attributions to a victim are more easily Interpreted in terms of cognitive developmental theory than 'just world' concepts. The study also resulted in a methodological innovation for facilitating perceived similarity between subject and actor, and the application of this to attitudinal research Involving young children is discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Docking, James W.
Date : 1986
Contributors :
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 09 Nov 2017 12:12
Last Modified : 16 Mar 2018 15:27

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