Get access

“Two for Flinching”: Children's and Adolescents' Narrative Accounts of Harming Their Friends and Siblings


  • This research was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to the first author. We would like to thank the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and the Murray City School District for their assistance with recruitment, Jessica Robinson for her help with coding the data, and especially the participating children and adolescents, without whom this study would not have been possible. Portions of this study were presented at the meeting of the Jean Piaget Society (2011).


This study investigated differences in children's and adolescents' experiences of harming their siblings and friends. Participants (= 101; 7-, 11-, and 16-year-olds) provided accounts of events when they hurt a younger sibling and a friend. Harm against friends was described as unusual, unforeseeable, and circumstantial. By contrast, harm against siblings was described as typical, ruthless, angry, and provoked, but also elicited more negative moral judgments and more feelings of remorse and regret. Whereas younger children were more self-oriented with siblings and other-oriented with friends, accounts of harm across relationships became somewhat more similar with age. Results provide insight into how these two relationships serve as distinct contexts for sociomoral development.