Increased moral condemnation of accidental harm in institutionalized adolescents

Sandra Baez, Eduar Herrera, Adolfo M. García, David Huepe, Hernando Santamaría-García, Agustín Ibáñez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Social deprivation, as faced by children in institutional rearing, involves socio-cognitive deficits that may persist into adolescence. In particular, two relevant domains which prove sensitive to pre-adult neurodevelopment are theory of mind (ToM) and moral judgment (a complex skill which partially depend upon ToM). However, no study has assessed moral evaluation in adolescents with a history of institutional care, let alone its relationship with ToM skills. The present study aims to bridge this gap, focusing on moral evaluation of harmful actions in institutionalized adolescents (IAs). Relative to adolescents raised with their biological families, IAs exhibited less willingness to exculpate protagonists for accidental harms, suggesting an under-reliance on information about a person’s (innocent) intentions. Moreover, such abnormalities in IAs were associated with ToM impairments. Taken together, our findings extend previous findings of delayed ToM under social deprivation, further showing that the development of moral cognition is also vulnerable to the impact of institutionalization. These results could pave the way for novel research on the role of institutional rearing in ToM and moral development during adolescence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11609
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018


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