In the orchard: Farm worker children's moral and environmental reasoning

Rachel L. Severson, Peter H. Kahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In this study, farm worker children (N = 40) in 2nd and 5th grade were interviewed about (a) their conceptions and judgments of pesticide exposure and (b) their reasoning about the moral standing of nature. First, results showed that all participants negatively judged pesticide exposure based on moral obligatory criteria. Yet, most children accepted pesticide use in the orchards where they lived. Their reasoning was either based on assumptions that certain practices eliminated potential harms or coordination of potential physical harms with concerns for financial security. Second, participants expressed biocentric considerations (wherein nature is accorded moral standing) when reasoning about harms to nature. The results provide evidence of biocentric reasoning earlier than previously shown in the developmental literature, and indicate a developmental shift in the form of biocentric reasoning. Finally, the results offer support of a new methodology for disentangling human considerations from environmental moral reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-256
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Biocentric reasoning
  • Environment
  • Farm worker children
  • Moral development
  • Pesticides


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