Parents who show children who’s boss on right track, Israeli uni study shows
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Parents who show children who’s boss on right track, Israeli uni study shows

Study which took place across Bar-Ilan and the University of Illinois a finds that toddlers have a well-developed understanding of social hierarchies and power dynamics.

Part of Bar-Ilan University campus
Part of Bar-Ilan University campus

Jewish mothers who put their foot down at home now have science on her side, after Israeli researchers showed that young children need to know who’s boss.

The study, which took place across the University of Illinois and Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, showed that toddlers aged 17 months expect leaders to step up when a member of their group breaks the rules.

Scientists say the findings show that children in their second year have a well-developed understanding of social hierarchies and power dynamics.

Since toddlers can’t express themselves verbally, researchers monitored eye contact, because infants stare longer at events that unfold in ways they don’t expect.

A total of 120 toddlers were shown a puppet show with a parent bear distributing a gift each to two young bears. In each case, one then grabs the other’s gift. In one scenario, the parent bear intervenes to redistribute gifts. In the other, the parent bear does not.

“Infants stared longer when the leader ignored the wrongdoing than when she rectified it,” said lead researcher Prof Renee Baillargeon. “This suggests that infants expect the leader to intervene and right the wrong in her group, and were surprised when she took no such action.”

Student researcher Maayan Stavans said: “It was as if the infants understood that in this case there was no transgression, so they viewed it as overbearing for the leader to redistribute one of the toys to a bear who had made it clear she didn’t want one.”

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