Children's concepts of personal values

Reut Shachnai*, Ella Daniel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Values (e.g., achievement, helping) describe what is important to people in their lives. Past studies show that children's values are similar across ages and resemble the values of adults, but this study investigated areas in which concepts of values may vary with age. N = 122 children aged 5 to 12 (mean = 8.97, SD = 1.88) were interviewed regarding values important and unimportant to them. Responses were coded for their level of adherence to conceptual elements in the definition of values. Above and beyond verbal expression abilities, older children's value descriptions were more abstract, transcended specific situations, and were motivation, not behaviour based. In particular, 9–12-year-old children consistently outperformed 5–8-year-old children across value conceptualization measures. Furthermore, across ages, girls and children valuing self-transcendence and openness to change described their values more abstractly than boys and children valuing self-enhancement and conservation. Findings suggest children's values undergo processes of conceptual formation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2205
JournalInfant and Child Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • conceptual development
  • narrative
  • value development
  • values


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