Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

DeCooke, Peggy A.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Love; Maturation (Psychology); Caring


Care is conceptualized as behaving towards another person with the intent of meeting that person's needs, even at the expense of meeting one's own needs. Demonstration of caring behavior springs from one's affective response to another and is based on one's ability to accurately perceive the nature of another's needs. Thus, caring is more likely between individuals who are emotionally close as well as between individuals similar in age. Because care implies the presence of advanced cognitive skills, such as accurate reading of another's needs, the emergence of true caring probably lies in the adolescent years. The present study examined the emergence of care, and how adolescents' understanding of care is integrated into their relationships with others. Subjects were 90 children in the third, seventh, and eleventh grades. Children were presented with one of two groups of four illustrated vignettes depicting characters with conflicting needs. One group of vignettes presented physical needs, the other psychological needs. Emotional relationship between story characters (close, distant) and age of the person requesting help (adult, peer) were varied. Children were encouraged to place themselves in the role of potential helper. Children rated how likely they would be to respond affectively to the other's need, how important they thought it would be to meet the other's need, and how likely they would be to act to meet the other's need as compared to their own. Multivariate analyses of children's ratings indicate that children at different grade levels exhibit different amounts and different patterns of caring. Third-graders did not differentiate their responsiveness to others' needs, but helped all needy individuals. Seventh-graders displayed less caring overall than third-graders, giving more importance to their own as compared to others' needs. They did, however, distinguish among help recipients, appearing least likely to care for emotionally distant peers. Eleventh-graders demonstrated a differentiated pattern of caring, feeling less for casual acquaintances than adult neighbors, and doing more for best friends than for parents. All children responded less caringly toward acquaintances as compared to neighbors with physical needs, and thought it more important to meet parents' as compared to best friends' psychological needs.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [101]-110)


vi, 144 pages




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