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Why do children tattle?

April 5, 2018
When young children see a peer cause harm, they often tattle to a caregiver.

When young children see a peer cause harm, they often tattle to a caregiver. But why do children tattle? A new Social Development study reveals that even when children cannot be blamed for a transgression, they tattle about it nonetheless, likely because tattling may be a way for children to enforce norms on others and thus help maintain cooperation.

The research sheds new light on why young children tattle and raises the question of whether tattling should necessarily be discouraged in early childhood.

"Children's tattling is often viewed as an undesirable behavior. But at least under some circumstances, tattling can also be seen as evidence that children recognize important social norms and that they care enough about those norms to try and make sure that others follow them as well. This kind of norm enforcement is generally seen as a positive force in social groups," said co-author Dr. Amrisha Vaish, of the University of Virginia.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Wiley. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Meltem Yucel, Amrisha Vaish. Young children tattle to enforce moral norms. Social Development, 2018 DOI: 10.1111/sode.12290

Cite This Page:

Wiley. "Why do children tattle?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2018. <>.
Wiley. (2018, April 5). Why do children tattle?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2024 from
Wiley. "Why do children tattle?." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 21, 2024).

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