Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

has been most significant on moral development research (e.g. Kohlberg, 1969), especially on 
possessiveness and altruism (e.g. Berti, Bombi & Lis, 1982; Furby, 1976; 1978a,b; Moessinger, 
Furby (1978a,b) completed a Piagetian interview survey of property behaviors, including 
sharing, across age groups in three types of societies (U.S. urban, Israell urban, and Israeli 
kibbutz). In the U.S, it appears that considerations about the welfare of others begin to appear 
at about age 10 or 11. According to Furby (1978c), the interpretation that this is due to a 
Piaget-staged, cognitive ability to take another's point of view (Flavell, 1968; Piaget, 1932) is 
challenged by the lack of evidence of relationships of generosity with role-taking, cognitive 
ability, or vicarious experience (e.g. Emler & Rushton, 1974; Rushton & Weiner, 1975). Citing 
Isaacs’ (1949/1967) psychodynamic explanation of children’s sharing behavior and Krebs’ (1970) 
review conclusion that dependency elicits altruism, Furby (1978c) alternatively suggests that 
altruistic behavior may affirm power, control and effectance in the world and thus in those 
respects, would have similar motivational origins as possessiveness. Furby (1980) has also 
reviewed evidence that there may be a developmental sequence of dominance relationships 
first, followed by affiliation relationships, and later altruism. 
Other child development studies have emphasized the importance of control motivations 
to the expression of altruistic behavior. Merei (1949) identified primary grade school children 
who had previously displayed leadership, introduced them into established play groups, and 
observed their strategies to regain power. One strategy was to assume ownership of important 
resources in the playroom and to then give these to their original possessors. This resulted in 
no changes in the children’s use of objects, but did re-establish the power of the leader. 
Vanderbilt (1971) differentiated kindergarten children who were socially active from those 
who were passive, hypothesizing that actives would be more generous. Contrary to 
expectations, actives kept more candy than they gave away, despite the fact that actives were 
more aware of sharing as a socialization norm at home, that they made more references to 
sharing in projective stories, and that they did more actual sharing in play. Actives also had 
higher teacher ratings on traits of control and drive-regulation. Vanderbiit (1971) concluded that 
actives have greater ego strength and that they are socially more adaptive and able to actin 
their own or others’ interests as conditions dictate.

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