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Sharing and fair play among children

Pre-schoolers are innately selfish but from age 7, kids already have a clear sense of what is fair and what is not. This is according to a study by Swiss and German researchers published in Nature.

Kids aged 3 to 4 are “universally selfish” and are reluctant to share. As they grow older, they learn to be generous and sharing becomes easier.

The researchers followed up 229 children aged 3 to 8 and observed their behavior, particular in terms of sharing. The younger children seemed to not be bothered by a “one for me, none for you” configuration. However, older children show more regard for other children’s well-being and would go more for the “one for me, one for you” configuration.

This, according to the researchers, has some interesting social and evolutionary implications with regards to “human altruism and parochialism.”

For me, this gives me hope for less conflict management duties in a couple of years’ time. My twin boys had to share so many things from day 1 on, which many times ended in conflict. Although there are times when they are truly altruistic towards each other, there are also times when I want to tear my hair out frustration – how do I explain fairness to 5-year olds? The study results give me hope that they will become less selfish and more tolerant of each other as they grow older.

The original study report can be seen here. The UK newspaper Telegraph has a review of the article here.


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