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Children’s Judgments of Disloyal and Immoral Peer Behavior: Subjective Group Dynamics in Minimal Intergroup Contexts


  • This research was funded by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant R000230401).

concerning this article should be addressed to Dominic Abrams, Centre for the Study of Group Processes, Department of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP, United Kingdom. Electronic mail may be sent to


The developmental model of subjective group dynamics hypothesizes that peer exclusion during middle childhood involves inferences about group dynamics. To test the generality of this prediction, children judged, within minimal groups, peers whose behavior was loyal versus disloyal (Study 1: n = 46, mean age = 113 months) or morally acceptable versus unacceptable (Study 2: n = 121, mean age = 90 months). As hypothesized, in Study 1, children used their understanding of loyalty norms as a basis for evaluating peers. In both studies, higher commitment to the in-group increased use of group-based criteria for judging peers. In Study 2, children employed moral- and group-based criteria independently for judging peers. Multiple classification skill was associated with lower intergroup bias and greater use of morality-based judgment.