Negative statements about other people create prejudiced attitudes in children

We all know that children absorb information from others like a sponge and copy the manners and behavior of adults, but we don’t even imagine , to what extent our influence on their worldview is great. An experiment by American psychologists clearly showed how important it is for parents to watch their words in the presence of children.

Negative statements about other people create prejudiced attitudes in children 12484

Experts at Vanderbilt University in Nashville decided to test how derogatory statements about different groups of people affect children's opinions about them. They invited 121 children aged 4 to 9 years old to participate in the study and divided them into small groups.

The young participants were involved in various activities that simulated everyday activities at home, and at one point, an adult opened a pre-recorded video call so that the children could accidentally hear its contents. In these conversations, a child or adult expressed their negative or neutral attitude towards a fictitious group of people called “Flurps” or “Gearoos”. Derogatory assessments sounded like this: “These are very bad people. They eat disgusting food, dress very strangely, and their language sounds ugly.”

The study authors noted that immediately after an overheard conversation, children over 7 years of age developed more prejudiced attitudes toward this group compared to participants who heard neutral statements. In fact, their opinion repeated what they heard. Two weeks later, the scientists interviewed the children again and found that this negative attitude towards fictional people had not gone away: the children remembered that they were bad people with very strange habits and an ugly language. It is noteworthy that for them it did not matter who these assessments came from, from an adult or from a child, the influence was the same.

The authors of the study noted that this result is quite logical, since at this age children tend to classify people according to skin color, clothing and other distinctive features in order to understand the world around them.

However, in the age group of 4-5 years there was no such effect: children did not begin to have a negative attitude towards Flurps or Gearoos after hearing about them bad words. According to scientists, this may be due to the fact that young children are less able to capture information by ear, and their attention span is reduced.

Scientists recalled that it is very important for parents to remember how much their words influence formation of the child’s worldview. “Children may develop social biases after hearing disparaging comments about others,” the study authors said.