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Sharing Kids

April 11, 2013

New research suggests that young children understand the concept of fairness, but desire gets in the way of sharing.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

The development of sharing. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Anyone who has raised young children knows that sharing doesn’t come easy. But a University of Michigan study suggests that by the age of three, children understand that they should share things. They’re just too focused on their own desires to put this into practice, according to developmental psychologist Craig Smith.

CRAIG SMITH (Universty of Michigan):

The youngest kids we studied all the way through the 8-yer-olds seemed really clear that when people are equally deserving, things should be divided equally.

HIRSHON:

But when the researchers gave them the opportunity to share stickers with other children, the three to six-year-olds hoarded them for themselves. Only the older kids shared their stickers equally. Smith says in the moment, the older kids emphasized the happiness of others over personal gain.

SMITH:

Whereas the younger kids seemed to get sucked a bit more into thinking more about just their own desires.

HIRSHON:

This suggests that kids may not be able align their behavior with their ethics before age seven. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

New research shows that small children do understand the concept of fairness, but can't yet put it into practice. (Jupiter Images)