Understanding responsibility

Adolescents' views of delegation and follow‐through within the family

Jacqueline J. Goodnow*, Pamela M. Warton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Most studies of responsibility emphasize judgments about blame, with cognitive sophistication as the major basis for variations in judgments. The present study explores an alternative. The judgments are about actions that should be taken, with interpersonal relationships as the major basis. In the situations considered, one sibling asks another to take on a job normally done by the asker. The judgments have to do with the responsibility to follow‐through, and with the implementation of responsibility (appropriate as against inappropriate ways to remind, give details, or check that the job has been done). Among 14‐ and 18‐year‐olds, the majority regarded follow‐through as an obligation, with some variation as a function of circumstances. Judgments about appropriate and inappropriate implementation showed a concern with avoiding both negative attributions and the appearance of coercion, in line with the nature of the relationship. Age differences were not significant but gender, in combination with age, was a factor on some judgments. Overall, the results point to the feasibility and the value of considering responsibility in terms of appropriate actions and of linking the analysis of judgments about responsibility to analyses of relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-106
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1992


  • Adolescence
  • responsibility attribution
  • social judgment

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