We examined changes in value inter-relations during middle-childhood. In line with the Personal Values Theory (Schwartz, 1992), we expected a value system, with individuals similarly valuing related motivations, and setting priorities between conflicting motivations (Döring et al., 2016; Schwartz, 1992). We hypothesized this system to develop dynamically during middle-childhood, as children deepen their understanding of their own values (Shachnai & Daniel, 2020).
Using unfolding analysis (Borg et al., 2017; Skimina et al., 2021), we estimated intra-individual value structure coherence, i.e., the extent to which the inter-relations among a child’s values are similar to the hypothesized inter-relations. Cross-Cultural Study 1 (N= 4,615 6-12-year-old children) included children from 12 countries. Cross-Sequential Study 2 (N= 629, 6-10-year-old children at Time 1), included three annual measurements.
In Study 1, we found a curvilinear association between age and intra-individual value structure coherence: Children’s values were more coherent at ages 9-10 than before or after. Study 2 confirmed this pattern of within-individual development.
We propose that development in coherence with the theoretical value structure offers insight into children’s understanding of values as well as changes in value priorities.