Reasoning about Interpersonal Responsibility when Making Judgments about Scenarios Depicting Close Personal Relationships

  • Neff K
  • Turiel E
  • Anshel D
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This study examined the moral reasoning of 36 young adults (M age = 20.8 yr., evenly divided by sex) about situations involving close interpersonal relationships: best friends, spouses, and parents or children. Participants were presented stories in which personal needs and desires were in conflict with interpersonal concerns. When asked how the conflicts should be resolved, the large majority of participants judged that personal desires should be subordinated to interpersonal concerns, justifying their judgments with reference to concern for others, relationship maintenance, or relationship responsibilities. No sex differences in judgments or justifications were found. In addition, most judged that the act of meeting another's needs in a close relationship was an obligatory responsibility and that such responsibilities generalized to people living in other societies. Thus, participants considered interpersonal responsibilities to be moral obligations that apply across cultural boundaries and did not consider them to be matters of personal choice.

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  • Kristin D. Neff

  • Elliot Turiel

  • Daphne Anshel

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