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Title: Urban and Rural Chinese Children’s Anticipated Moral Emotions

Anticipated shame and guilt feelings are children’s natural response to situations in which someone was made to feel out of place or uncomfortable (Stapleton, Zhang, Kitzmann, & Cohen, 2018). Previous research has found that children’s shame and guilt experiences vary by situational factors, such as whether harm was caused or witnessed (Olthof, Schouten, Kuiper, Stegge, & Jennekens-Schinkel, 2000). However, the previous research has failed to examine differences in children’s shame and guilt experiences due to contextual factors, such as whether children are raised in an urban or rural environment. The goal of the current study was to examine whether moral emotions varied across four different situations (causing harm deliberately, being harmed or victimized, causing harm accidentally, and witnessing harm) and differed between rural and urban Chinese children. In order to do this, we collected data from 324 children (aged 8 to 12) in Central China. Children were asked to report their level of shame and guilt after reading about the four situations previously mentioned. Results of the ANOVA showed a significant three way interaction between social environment (urban vs rural), situation type, and type of emotion reported, F (9, 285) = 58.924, p < .000. Urban children reported more shame and guilt for victimization and accident situations, than aggression and witnessing harm situations. In contrast, rural children reported more shame and guilt for acts of aggression and witnessing aggression situations than victimization and accident situations. One possible explanation of these results is that the urban moral education may put more emphasis on self-protection, whereas rural moral education may emphasize prosocial behavior. The discussion of these results will focus on how Chinese children’s moral emotions are influenced by their social environment and the moral education they receive from these environments.

Keywords: Chinese culture, children, moral emotions, shame, guilt, rural, urban


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  • Event location
    • Nesbitt 3110

  • Event date
    • 3 November 2018

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022