What do preschoolers know about justice?

by ParentCo. June 24, 2015

four kids around a table with pens and paper

What do 3 year olds know about justice, empathy, and ownership? What do 5 year olds know? Researchers in the U.K. and Germany recently studied the difference. According to their findings, a shift occurs in those two short years. Using puppets, the researchers staged various acts of injustice, including stealing cookies intended for the child himself, or snatching marbles from another puppet. The difference between the age groups? The five year olds were more apt to serve up punishment while the 3 year olds leaned toward simply wanting to end the suffering of the wronged. It stands to reason, that by the age of 5, children have more exposure to punishment and consequences which may guide their sense of what justice looks like. But what if, like the younger children do naturally, we teach them that justice is more about caring for the victim? This also provides more context for our post about teaching kids to see through misleading claims. Read more about this study via NPR: That's Not Fair! Crime And Punishment In A Preschooler's Mind


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