Infant and Child Development

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Volume 13 Issue 5 (December 2004), Pages 369-453

Healthy and chronically‐ill children's generalisation of illness to biological and non‐biological categories (pages 435-450)


Using children's naïve theory of biology as a framework, this study investigated children's developing understanding of illness by examining their generalisation of illness to biological and non‐biological categories. In addition to differences associated with age, the children's health status was investigated for any possible linkwith their understanding. Healthy and chronically‐ill children, aged 4–11 years, were randomly assigned to one of three conditions, according to which exemplar (child, dog or duck) was described as suffering from an imaginary illness. Using a card‐sorting technique, the children assessed whether each entity out of 30 entities (five representatives in each of six categories: humans, mammals, non‐mammals, birds, plants and artifacts) could be afflicted by that illness. The children's generalisations indicated a grasp of the distinctiveness of the various categories, although they seemed less certain about the biological status of plants. Furthermore, the type of exemplar on which the children had been taught influenced their responses. However, the children's reasoning appeared unaffected by their health status and largely unaffected by age or gender. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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