The Development of Judgment and Decision Making in Children and Adolescents

By Janis E. Jacobs; Paul A. Klaczynski | Go to book overview

6

Culture and the Construction
of Concepts of Personal
Autonomy and Democratic
Decision Making

Charles C. Helwig

University of Toronto

Recent research has advanced our understanding of how children evaluate their own decision-making autonomy and make judgments about the fairness of social organization in various social contexts, including the peer group, the family, and the school. Research conducted in Western cultural contexts has shown that children develop concepts of personal autonomy and democratic decision making, which they apply to evaluate procedures for making decisions (e.g., democratic vs. authority-centered) in social groups. However, until now, little was known about children's and adolescents' judgments about these issues in cultures with fundamentally different political systems from those typically found in the West. This chapter reviews research on children's judgments of personal choice, autonomy, and democracy in Western and other cultural contexts; preliminary findings are presented from a new line of research investigating judgments of democratic decision making conducted in mainland China. The implications of these findings for broader questions regarding explanations of similarities and differences in reasoning about personal choice, autonomy, and democracy across cultures are discussed.


CONCEPTS OF PERSONAL DECISION MAKING
AND AUTONOMY

Western psychologists have long identified the achievement of autonomy and individuation as important milestones in social development (Erikson, 1968). Autonomy is significant for a variety of life tasks, including individu

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