Learning Exercise

Piaget & Childhood Crime

For this assignment, students are asked to write an essay in which they present an argument about whether or not children should be tried as adults based upon Piaget's stages of cognitive development.
Course: Child and Adolescent Development
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A companion web site for the Frontline (PBS) program of the same name which aired on January 30, 2001. Includes facts... see more

Exercise

Piaget & childhood crime


Activity developed by Beverly R. King, PhD
Department of Psychology & Counseling
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Questions about this activity should be sent to: beverly.king@uncp.edu



The first week of August, 2002, a 10-year-old boy was shot to death in Oklahoma, and his 10-year-old friend was arrested on a murder complaint. The body of Termain Richey was found in his back yard by his mother. The boy had been shot once in the head. Investigators found a revolver they believe was the gun used in the shooting wrapped in a blanket inside the garage at the home. The police chief said the two boys were friends and that the police did not believe the shooting was an accident. Detectives said the shooting happened after an argument. The boy was questioned for nearly an hour before police filed a murder complaint against him and took him into custody. As of this writing, a decision on formal charges was pending. The boy was taken to a juvenile detention center. This is not an isolated incident. On February 29, 2000, a 6-year-old Flint, Michigan first-grader took a .32 caliber handgun to school and shot and killed a 6-year-old female classmate. Thirteen-year-old Nathaniel Abraham, also a Michigan resident, was convicted of second-degree murder for the shooting death of an 18-year-old neighbor when Nathaniel was 11 years old.



One of the major issues in these cases is whether the children should be tried as adults. (A PBS web site provides excellent coverage of this issue: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/juvenile/). According to Piaget, children are not little adults—they think in a qualitatively different way than adults do. (If you need to review Piaget’s life, his theory, or the critiques of his theory, see the following web page: http://hubcap.clemson.edu/%7Ecampber/piaget.html).



For this assignment, write an essay in which you present an argument about whether or not children should be tried as adults. Discuss the following ages: 6, 10, and 13. These ages represent three different stages of cognitive development according to Piaget. In your arguments for or against trying each of these ages as adults, describe the characteristics of children in each of these stages that make you think they should or should not be tried as adults. End your essay with a conclusion answering the following question: At what age do you think a child should be tried as an adult? (Base your final response on Piagetian theory as well.)



Sample grading grid for this assignment:


Paper double-spaced, with standard font size, 1” margins, 2 points;
Describe characteristics of thought of 6 year old in Piagetian terms, 2 points;
Provide argument for why/why not to try a 6 year old as an adult, 2 points;
Describe characteristics of thought of 10 year old in Piagetian terms, 2 points;
Provide argument for why/why not to try a 10 year old as an adult, 2 points;
Describe characteristics of thought of 13 year old in Piagetian terms, 2 points;
Provide argument for why/why not to try a 13 year old as an adult, 2 points;
Ending argument addressing central question, 3 points;
Grammar, punctuation, & spelling, 3 points


Total, 20 points

Topics

Piaget's theory of cognitive development; juvenile justice

Learning Objectives

To apply Piaget's theory of cognitive development to a real-world situation thereby gaining a better grasp of the way that children think at each stage of the theory.