Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Young children may go above and beyond when helping adults

Date:
February 12, 2013
Source:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Summary:
Even very young children understand that adults don't always know best. When it comes to helping, 3-year-olds may ignore an adult's specific request for an unhelpful item and go out of their way to bring something more useful, according to new research.

When it comes to helping, 3-year-olds may ignore an adult's specific request for an unhelpful item and go out of their way to bring something more useful.
Credit: Anelina / Fotolia

Even very young children understand that adults don't always know best. When it comes to helping, 3-year-olds may ignore an adult's specific request for an unhelpful item and go out of their way to bring something more useful, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

Youngsters may also attempt to warn adults who are doing something counterproductive, such as reaching for an empty box of crayons to draw a picture or putting on a wet sweatshirt when they say they are cold, according to the article published online in the APA journal Developmental Psychology.

"In our experiments, most 3-year-olds were able to recognize that adults weren't making the best decisions and decided to be helpful in another way," said co-author Kristina R. Olson, PhD, of Yale University. "Furthermore, we found that very young children are motivated to intervene when others are going about things in the wrong way, even when they are not prompted to do so."

In one of three experiments, an adult asked 3-year-olds to help with simple tasks, such as writing a note or making a phone call, but mistakenly asked for a dried-up marker or toy phone. A majority of the children ignored such a request and, instead, brought the adult something functional, such as a working marker or a real phone. Almost all the children who were asked to bring over a helpful object obeyed. If they were told the item was going to be thrown in the trash, they brought the requested object whether it was useless or functional, which indicates that children don't simply prefer functional objects, according to the article.

The children did not discriminate between functional and dysfunctional objects if either one would help the adult complete the task. For example, they would bring a toy phone if the adult said she wanted to use it to hold down some papers.

A series of three experiments involved 58 children, 30 of whom were girls, whose parents brought them to a laboratory at Yale University. For most of the experiments, children examined four pairs of matched functional and dysfunctional objects: a real phone and a toy phone; a functional glass and a cracked glass with a hole in the bottom; a real hammer and a rubber toy hammer; and a working marker and a dried-up marker. After examining all of the objects, the children helped the experimenter get ready for a "game." In one trial, the experimenter would ask, "Could you give me that cup so I can pour some water?" In half the cases, the experimenter would point to the cracked glass and in the other half she would ask for the functional glass. The adult did not remark on any issues with either of the objects, so it was up to the child to notice that the glass was cracked or that the phone was a toy and not a real phone.

"It appears very young children can recognize that helping someone can sometimes mean paying attention to their ultimate goal rather than their specific request," said Olson. "This work illustrates that even within the first few years of life, children have a remarkably sophisticated understanding of helping."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association (APA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alia Martin, Kristina R. Olson. When Kids Know Better: Paternalistic Helping in 3-Year-Old Children.. Developmental Psychology, 2013; DOI: 10.1037/a0031715

Cite This Page:

American Psychological Association (APA). "Young children may go above and beyond when helping adults." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212095738.htm>.
American Psychological Association (APA). (2013, February 12). Young children may go above and beyond when helping adults. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212095738.htm
American Psychological Association (APA). "Young children may go above and beyond when helping adults." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212095738.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) Researchers claim they’ve diagnosed the first example of the disorder in a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins