This study reports children's developing moral concerns for endangered animals. Three questions were addressed: (1) Do children conceive of not harming an endangered animal as a moral obligation? (2) Do children use biocentric (nature-centered) moral reasoning? and (3) Does a developmental shift in biocentrism occur between the ages of 7- and 10-years-old? Fifty-two urban children (gender balanced and evenly divided between two ages groups: 7- and 10-year-olds) from the Pacific Northwest were interviewed regarding their understanding of, and beliefs and values about, endangered animals, their moral obligatory concerns, and their conceptions of animal rights. Many questions focused on a single species - the gray wolf - as it presents a canonical example of a local, familiar, charismatic endangered animal. The semi-structured interview methodology and the coding procedures followed well-established methods in social-cognitive psychology. Results were that the 7- and 10-year-olds valued endangered animals, extended moral obligations to gray wolves, and endorsed animal rights. Quantitative analysis of the content responses revealed a typology of seven rights that children spontaneously offered when asked which rights animals have: food, companionship, reproduction, habitat, play/exercise, welfare, and autonomy. The 10-year-olds were significantly more likely to endorse autonomy rights than the 7-year-olds. The findings reveal the highest rates of biocentrism observed in young children, and the 10-year-olds endorsed biocentrism to a greater degree than the 7-year-olds. Children drew on their understanding of human moral concerns to extend these concerns to the animal. Sentiency and biological needs are salient features that allow children to take the perspective of the animal in ways that build upon and diverge from their own experiences. These findings provide a comparative baseline for extending our understanding of biocentrism across cultures, animal kinds, and in human-wildlife conflict scenarios.
|Author Address||Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195-1525, USA.firstname.lastname@example.org|
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