Archive for the ‘Children’ Category
Human cooperation is a key driving force behind the evolutionary success of our hominin lineage. At the proximate level, biologists and social scientists have identified other-regarding preferences – such as fairness based on egalitarian motives, and altruism – as likely candidates for fostering large-scale cooperation. A critical question concerns the ontogenetic origins of these constituents of cooperative behavior, as well as whether they emerge independently or in an interrelated fashion. The answer to this question will shed light on the interdisciplinary debate regarding the significance of such preferences for explaining how humans become such cooperative beings. We investigated 15-month-old infants’ sensitivity to fairness, and their altruistic behavior, assessed via infants’ reactions to a third-party resource distribution task, and via a sharing task. Our results challenge current models of the development of fairness and altruism in two ways. First, in contrast to past work suggesting that fairness and altruism may not emerge until early to mid-childhood, 15-month-old infants are sensitive to fairness and can engage in altruistic sharing. Second, infants’ degree of sensitivity to fairness as a third-party observer was related to whether they shared toys altruistically or selfishly, indicating that moral evaluations and prosocial behavior are heavily interconnected from early in development. Our results present the first evidence that the roots of a basic sense of fairness and altruism can be found in infancy, and that these other-regarding preferences develop in a parallel and interwoven fashion. These findings support arguments for an evolutionary basis – most likely in dialectical manner including both biological and cultural mechanisms – of human egalitarianism given the rapidly developing nature of other-regarding preferences and their role in the evolution of human-specific forms of cooperation. Future work of this kind will help determine to what extent uniquely human sociality and morality depend on other-regarding preferences emerging early in life.
Children are much more likely than not to grow up in a household in which their parents work, and in nearly half of all two-parent families today, both parents work full time, a sharp increase from previous decades. What hasn’t changed: the difficulty of balancing it all. Working parents say they feel stressed, tired, rushed and short on quality time with their children, friends, partners or hobbies, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The survey found something of a stress gap by race and education. College-educated parents and white parents were significantly more likely than other parents to say work-family balance is difficult. The data are the latest to show that while family structure seems to have permanently changed, public policy, workplace structure and mores have not seemed to adjust to a norm in which both parents work.
Children are frequently confronted with so-called ‘ test questions’. While genuine questions are requests for missing information, test questions ask for information obviously already known to the questioner. In this study we explored whether two-year-old children respond differentially to one and the same question used as either a genuine question or as a test question based on the SITUATION (playful game versus serious task) and ATTITUDE (playful ostensive cues versus not). Results indicated that children responded to questions differently on the basis of the situation but not the expressed attitude of the questioner. Two-year-old children thus understand something of the very special communicative intentions behind test questions.
Human communication rests on a basic assumption of partner cooperativeness, including even requesting. In the current study, an adult made an ambiguous request for an object to 21-month-old infants, with one potential referent being right in front of her and the other being across the room. In a normal situation (Hands-Free), infants interpreted the request as referring to the distant object—the one the adult needed help fetching. In contrast, in a situation in which the adult was constrained so that fetching either object herself would be difficult (Hands-Occupied), infants selected the far object much less often. These results suggest that infants just beginning to acquire language already understand something of the cooperative logic of requests.
In particular, in my lab in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, I have spent the past decade trying to understand the mystery of how children learn so much from so little so quickly. Because, it turns out that the fascinating thing about science is also a fascinating thing about children, which, to put a gentler spin on Mark Twain, is precisely their ability to draw rich, abstract inferences rapidly and accurately from sparse, noisy data. I’m going to give you just two examples today. One is about a problem of generalization, and the other is about a problem of causal reasoning. And although I’m going to talk about work in my lab, this work is inspired by and indebted to a field. I’m grateful to mentors, colleagues, and collaborators around the world.
When children are asked about their Internet use, their responses differ to those of their parents. This is one of many ethical dilemmas for those conducting research with children. The children’s answers often challenge adults’ view of children. Researchers have traditionally asked parents about issues affecting children. When it comes to children’s media use, there’s no point in relying on information from parents alone, according to media researcher Elisabeth Staksrud. She has extensive experience from the project EU Kids Online and has led several international quantitative studies of children and risk behaviour on the Internet.
Although there have been a number of studies with children in the age-range of 4 to 9 years of age performing joint planning tasks with adults and sometimes peers, ours is the first experimental study of young children’s planning prior to action in a collaborative problem-solving context. The finding suggests that by age 3 children are able to learn, under certain circumstances, to take account of what a partner is doing in a collaborative problem-solving context. By age 5 they are already quite skillful at attending to and even anticipating a partner’s actions. Future research should focus on comparing children’s individual problem solving and planning skills with those they show in collaborative problem-solving contexts. Our study thus raises questions about the relation between individual and collaborative problem solving. Although not designed to directly address this question, our results suggest that young children do not have additional difficulties employing their planning abilities in problem-solving tasks requiring collaboration. In fact, it raises the possibility that children employ similar cognitive representations when they reason about two complementary actions (in terms of means-end relationships) as when they reason about two complementary roles (in terms of social partners executing these actions).
Current explanations of social class gaps in children’s early academic skills tend to focus on non-cognitive skills that more advantaged children acquire in the family. Accordingly, social class matters because the cultural resources more abundant in advantaged families cultivate children’s repertories and tool kits, which allow them to more easily navigate social institutions, such as schools. Within these accounts, parenting practices matter for children’s academic success, but for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Alternatively, findings from current neuroscience research indicate that family context matters for children because it cultivates neural networks that assist in learning and the development of academic skills. That is, children’s exposure to particular parenting practices and stimulating home environments contribute to the growth in neurocognitive skills that affect later academic performance. We synthesize sociological and neuroscience accounts of developmental inequality by focusing on one such skill—fine motor skills—to illustrate how family context alters children’s early academic performance. Our findings support an interdisciplinary account of academic inequality, and extend current accounts of the family’s role in the transmission of social inequality. Our results push sociological theory to incorporate more encompassing accounts of how and why social context and process matter for children’s development, and how the social and biological combine in the emergence of inequality.
It is increasingly popular to ‘teach’ thinking skills in schools. A diverse variety of programmes exist to support practitioners in this task, and some research has been gathered on the effectiveness of individual approaches. However, the difficulties when assessing the development of thinking skills are widely documented. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of teaching thinking skills explicitly to 11/12-year olds by infusing thinking skills into the curriculum (i.e., teaching thinking skills simultaneously with subject content). There were three intervention conditions: collaborative, individual and control. The effectiveness of the intervention was evaluated with a combination of standardised and study-specific pre- and post-tests. Results demonstrated statistically significant gains for both the individual and collaborative learning conditions in a range of thinking skills. The greatest increase in performance was seen in the collaborative learning condition. Educational implications for policy and practice are discussed.