The Development of Reasoning about the Teaching of Values in School and Family Contexts



This study investigated children’s, adolescents’, and young adults’ reasoning about the teaching of a variety of values in the school and family contexts. One-hundred and sixty participants in four age groups (8-, 10-, and 13-year-olds, and college students) evaluated acts involving the teaching of values and laws that regulate the teaching of these values. Both the valence (positive or negative) of values and the context in which they were presented (school, family) were systematically varied. Results showed that a variety of factors were considered in evaluating the teaching of values, including context, the valence of the value, and the type of value being taught. Participants’ reasoning about values education was found to be multifaceted and included distinctions between moral values that reflect justice and rights, and values that reflect other forms of personality traits and social values. The findings suggest that conceptions of values education may be better understood within models of social reasoning that draw distinctions between types of values (e.g., moral and other values) and account for the increasing capacity to differentiate social contexts and spheres of legitimate governmental regulation with development.