Pre-school children bow to peer pressure, study finds

Katy Morton
Monday, October 31, 2011

Children as young as four bow to peer pressure even when they know their actions are wrong, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany examined the behaviours of 120 four-year-olds attending different nurseries.

In the first part of the study the children were each given a book with illustrations of animal families. Three out of the four books had identical pictures, but the fourth varied slightly.
When asked to identify the family member on the right page, the researchers found that the child with the fourth book agreed with his peers, despite knowing the answer was incorrect.

In total, 18 out of the 24 children agreed at least once with their peers even though they knew the response was wrong.

In a second study, children were asked to either say their answer out loud or to silently point to the correct animal depending on whether a lamp was on or off.

The findings showed that of the 18 children, 12 agreed with the majority at least once if they had to say the answer out loud. However, when they were required to point silently to the right answer, only 8 children went with the majority judgment.

The researchers claim the research suggests that children succumb to peer pressure for social reasons to avoid conflict with their peer group.

Daniel Haun of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said, ‘We wanted to know whether pre-school children conform their opinion to the majority even if the latter is obviously in conflict with their own point of view.

‘The study shows that children as young as four years of age are subject to peer pressure and that they succumb to it, as least to some extent, out of social motivations.’

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