Children's conceptions of the emotional consequences of victimization
Kramer, Rivka Leah
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Forty-eight children (16 4, 6, and 8-year-olds) participated in two studies in which children's conceptions of the emotional consequences of victimization were assessed. Results of Study 1 indicated that children attributed conflicting emotions to victims and victimizers in response to a story which described an act of victimization. Overall, children expected victimizers to feel happy and victims to feel sad or angry following the transgression. Eight-year-olds' ratings of victimizers, however, varied depending on whether they first assessed the emotions of victims or victimizers. In Study 2, several possible explanations for the "happy victimizer" finding were examined. Several manipulations intended to judgments of the eight-year-olds. Children's rationales for their emotion judgments indicated that victimizers were generally expected to be happy due to the material gains produced by victimization, whereas victims were expected to feel negatively both due to their material loss and to the intrinsic unfairness of the act. Follow-up probe questions revealed that 6 and 8-year-olds attributed additional opposite valence emotions to victimizers, but not victims. In other words, victimizers were initially considered happy, but older children routinely said victimizers would also feel negative emotions about the pain and loss created for victims. Lastly, children's capacity to attribute multiple emotions to victimizers in stories of moral victimization was found to be linked to their capacity to attribute multiple emotions to characters in non-moral situations. Possible explanations for young children's restricted capacity for multiple emotions are discussed, including underlying cognitive constraints.