This study investigated the principles that children and adolescents rely on when allocating a resource fairly. In a series of three experiments, 51 Swiss children (aged 7 and 9 years) and 309 German children (aged 6, 9, and 15 years) participated. A different situational context was presented in each experiment, where luck, need and effort of two protagonists were systematically varied. Primary-school children relied mainly on need when making distributive justice judgements. Effort became more prominent as the allocation principle in adolescence. Equality occurred rarely in all age groups. Integrational capacity and the ability to differentiate between the three situational contexts increased from childhood to adolescence. The data suggest the conclusion that the development of distributive justice decisions has both generalized and context-specific components.