Influence of reading fairy tales on moral reasoning in pre-school children

Jessica J. Jackson, The College of Wooster


Research suggests that moral reasoning can be examined in youngsters and that reading experiences between an adult and child, especially with fairy tales, can have a positive influence on a child's moral development. Preschool children with multiple exposures to fairy tales have higher moral development and reasoning. Fourteen participants from the college's nursery school, ages 4 and 5 years old were tested on their morality using an adapted form of Kohlberg's moral dilemmas. The experimental group listened to three Grimm's Fairy Tales. To ensure that the children understood the fairy tales and to analyze language development, each child retold one fairy tale. The results showed exposure had no significant effect on the participants' responses to moral dilemmas. Lack of significance may have resulted from the children not identifying with the characters or moral dilemmas or not understanding the applications to their own lives. Although the results were not significant, individual children demonstrated reasoning at the heteronomous and autonomous levels, earlier than Piaget suggested for moral development. Keywords: moral reasoning, fairy tales, moral dilemmas, preschool