Social exclusion and inclusion from groups, as well as the distribution of resources, are fundamental aspects of social life, and serve as sources of conflicts that bear on issues of fairness and equality, beginning in childhood. For the most part, research on social exclusion and allocation of resources has not focused on the issue of group membership. Yet, social exclusion from groups and the denial of resources reflect societal issues pertaining to social inequality and its counterpoint, fair treatment of others. Social inequality occurs when opportunities and resources are distributed unevenly in society, often through group norms about allocation that reflect socially defined categories of persons. This occurs at multiple levels of societal organization, from experiences of exclusion in childhood such as being left out of a play activity, to being denied access to resources as a member of a group. These situations extend to larger-level experiences in the adult world concerning social exclusion from voting, for example, or participation in educational institutions. Thus, most decisions regarding social exclusion and the denial of resources involve considerations of group identity and group membership, implicitly or explicitly, which contribute to prejudice and bias, even though this has rarely been investigated in developmental science. Current research illustrating the role of group identity and autonomy regarding decision-making about social exclusion and the denial of resources is reviewed from the social reasoning developmental model, a theoretical perspective that integrates social domain theory and developmental social identity theories to investigate how children use moral, conventional, and psychological judgments to evaluate contexts reflecting group identity, group norms, and intergroup dynamics.

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