American and Chinese Children's Evaluations of Personal Domain Events and Resistance to Parental Authority


  • We wish to thank Joe Wong for drawing the stimuli for the research, the participating after-school programs and children for their cooperation, and Ge Song, Cheng Ka Ki Kitty, and the undergraduate research assistants who assisted with interviews and data entry. We are also grateful to the Hong Kong Institute of Education for their funding.


A total of 267 five-, seven-, and ten-year-olds (M = 7.62), 147 in Hong Kong and 120 in the United States, evaluated hypothetical personal (and moral) events described as either essential or peripheral to actors' identity. Except for young Chinese in the peripheral condition, straightforward personal events were overwhelmingly evaluated as acceptable based on personal justifications. Children primarily endorsed compliance, but attributed negative emotions to actors when mothers forbade personal choices, especially when described as essential to identity. Conventional justifications declined among Chinese children and pragmatic justifications for these judgments increased with age for all children, as did judgments that personal events were up to the child. Rules were seen as more legitimate and events were seen as more up to mothers to decide for moral than personal events.