What characteristics do we find in a child of this age in terms of emotional and moral development?

Analysis and Application Paper Instructions


To successfully complete this assignment, you will:

  • Analyze 3 scenarios (based on actual events) and identify developmental characteristics of a child aged 2–6 that are evident in the behavior of the children described.
  • Apply knowledge from the field of developmental psychology to provide a basis for the legal system’s determination that children should not be held responsible for crimes committed.
  • Present this information in a professional manner, implementing current APA guidelines for style and formatting.


Scenario One:

One day at school in a small town in Michigan, two children had a disagreement on the playground. This was not an unusual occurrence as anyone who has spent time with six-year olds can attest. However, the next day a terrible tragedy resulted. While the teacher led the class through the hall to the computer lab, one of the children pulled a loaded pistol from his backpack, pointed it at his classmate shouting, “I don’t like you,” and then shot her. She died soon after at the hospital.


Scenario Two:

Six-year-old Michael and Bill* lived in the hills of Kentucky. One day, Michael found some scrap metal that he hoped to sell for a few cents. When Bill (who was older) slapped Michael and took the metal for himself, Michael ran home, took his father’s shotgun down from the wall, then went outside and shot his playmate dead. *Not their real names.


Scenario Three:

In a hot, overcrowded apartment in Kansas City, a sixteen-year old girl fell asleep while baby-sitting several young children. She did not awaken when an 18-month old boy in her charge began to cry. When a six-year old girl grew tired of listening to him, she took the younger child to the bathtub, and held him under water until he died.


Each of these stories represents a tragic and senseless loss of life. While an adult in any of these circumstances would certainly have been charged with first-degree murder, none of the children described were punished because standards within our legal system indicate that young children cannot be held responsible for crimes such as these.


For this assignment, imagine that you are a developmental psychologist asked to defend this policy. Your arguments must describe developmental characteristics found in children at this age. You will apply concepts and theories used in developmental psychology to explain why our legal system is justified in ruling that young children are not responsible for criminal actions. Use only information provided in this document and in our textbook. Do not make assumptions about home life, parenting, environment, etc.


Content Requirements:

Your paper must include 3 main sections (in addition to your introduction and conclusion):

  • First, describe a biological argument for this policy. What physical or biological characteristics do we find in a child under six years of age that would excuse them from responsibility for their actions? (Focus on development within the brain, not myelination or motor skills).
  • Second, describe a cognitive argument for this policy. What is it about the way a child processes information during this stage of life that would lead us to believe that they are not capable of understanding the consequences of their actions (focus on the work of Piaget).
  • Third, provide an argument for this policy based on the child’s emotional and/or social development. What characteristics do we find in a child of this age in terms of emotional and moral development?
  • In your conclusion identify which of the 3 factors provides the most compelling argument for this legal standard.


Research and Formatting Requirements:

  • Proper APA formatting is required for this assignment. Current APA resources have been made available for you and can be found in the Addition Information folder.
  • Using only your textbook as a resource, include concepts to support your arguments. Identify any information used with in-text citations.
  • Your paper must include 900–1,200 words.
  • You are a professional in training. Remember to check spelling, punctuation, and grammar before submitting your paper. Click here for tips on writing at the college level.


DO NOT include the following in your paper:

  • Legal definitions of criminal intent or culpability.
  • Environmental factors related to parenting, neglect, socio-economic status, or role-models.
  • Spiritual interventions that might have prevented these tragedies.


A Word about Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is serious academic offense with serious consequences. Listed below are some common errors that could lead to problems with plagiarism:

  1. Copying words or phrases and using them in your paper without identifying the source. Note that if you choose to include copied words or phrases, points will be deducted as direct quotes are not allowed in this paper. However, if you choose to include copied text (a direct quote) you must include these 3 things: 1) quotation marks, 2) in-text citation, and 3) a corresponding reference.
  2. Improper paraphrasing. Sometimes, students mistakenly believe that by copying text and then substituting words or changing the order of words is the proper way to paraphrase. This is not correct. To paraphrase, you must rewrite the text entirely in your own words.


  1. “Recycling” a paper. Obviously, you are not allowed to use another person’s paper to write your own. Even if you use it as a guide but modify the text, it is still cheating. In addition, you may not re-submit work which retains essential elements of an assignment used for another course. Your work must be 100% original in this term.

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