Category: Developmental

Episode 27: The Psychologist Presents… At Latitude Festival 2021 — Child Food Poverty

This is Episode 27 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

At Latitude Festival in Suffolk in July, The Psychologist Editor Dr Jon Sutton hosted a conversation in The Listening Post with Greta Defeyter, Professor of Developmental Psychology and founder and Director of the “Healthy Living” Lab at Northumbria University. An expert on food insecurity, social injustice, school feeding programmes and holiday hunger, Professor Defeyter considered why children go hungry, what we can do about it, and how her own experiences of poverty have shaped her. 

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Let The Children Play: Research On The Importance Of Play, Digested

By Emma Young

As children head back to school, teachers and parents will of course be concerned about kids catching up on their education after the Covid-19 lockdowns. But, as many psychologists have pointed out, they need to catch up on play, too. So what does the research tell us about the need for and the importance of play?

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Preschool Children Choose To Learn About Topics Where There Are Gaps In Their Knowledge They Want To Fill

By Emily Reynolds

The world is full of fascinating opportunities to learn. But with so many different topics for children to explore, why do they pick certain paths? In a new paper in Psychological Science, a team from Rutgers University looks closely at what drives children’s curiosity. They find that children are motivated to learn more about a topic when there is a gap in their knowledge that they want to fill. The results suggest that for young children there is a sweet spot for learning, when they already know enough to find a topic interesting, but not so much that it becomes boring.

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Some Teenagers At Risk Of Self-Harming Can Be Identified A Decade In Advance

By Emily Reynolds

There are multiple risk factors for self-harm, including a history of abuse, trauma, physical and mental illness, and bullying. Identifying these factors is a key part of prevention, ensuring that those at risk receive appropriate support as early as possible — but despite this, predicting who may end up engaging in self-harming behaviour is still tricky.     

But we may be able to identify these risks earlier than we thought, a new study from a University of Cambridge team suggests. Stepheni Uh and colleagues report that some at-risk adolescents could be identified ten years before they self-harm — offering what the team says is an “extended window” during which help and support can be offered.

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Children Who Enjoy School Aged Six Tend To Get Better Grades Ten Years Later

By Emily Reynolds

Multiple factors influence how we perform educationally: the way we’re taught, our particular needs and how they’re met, our parents, and our socio-economic background to name a few. Gaps in attainment can start from very early on: some children have already fallen behind before the age of seven.

But what about how much we enjoy school? A new study in npj Science of Learning, led by the University of Bristol’s Tim Morris, looks at this relatively under-explored factor. And the team finds that enjoyment at the age of six has a significant impact on achievement, which was visible even years later when participants took their GCSEs.

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Kids As Young As Five Underestimate How Much Their Peers Like Them

By Emma Young

A striking paper in Psychological Science in 2018 revealed consistent evidence for the “liking gap” — that other people like us more than we think. Now, for the first time, researchers have looked at how this phenomenon arises during childhood. The study, led by Wouter Wolf at Duke University, US, on children aged 4 to 11, found that the liking gap emerged by around 5, and then grew wider with age. The findings have theoretical but also practical implications: parents and teachers can reassure kids that their judgements about what their peers think of them are likely to be overly negative, which could be of particular help to those who are worried about their relationships with classmates.

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At Just 16 Months Old, Toddlers Will Reward Someone For Acting Fairly

By Matthew Warren

Although we often think of young children as rather selfish, research has shown that babies and toddlers have a surprisingly strong sense of what is fair. At one year old, kids already expect resources to be divided fairly and for people to be helpful towards others. By two, they themselves tend to distribute resources equally, and would rather play with a fair adult than an unfair one.

But at what point do young kids actually intervene when they see someone else acting fairly or unfairly? According to a series of studies in Cognition, before they’re even one and a half years old children will reward someone for being fair — though they don’t yet punish unfair behaviour.

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Do Girls Really Show More Empathy Than Boys?

By Emma Young

Three people are walking down the street, two women and one man. One of the women trips and falls. Which of the two observers will feel more empathy for her pain? Hundreds of studies suggest that it’ll be the woman. However, these results almost overwhelmingly come from self-reports. Objective evidence that women genuinely feel more empathy than men is very thin on the ground. This has led to the idea that women report more empathy not because they actually feel it but to conform to societal expectations that they should. However, a new study in Scientific Reports claims to provide evidence that, even when they think no one else is looking or asking, girls show more empathy than boys.

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Describing Groups To Children Using Generic Language Can Accidentally Teach Them Social Stereotypes

By Matthew Warren

When we talk to children about the characteristics of boys and girls, our word choice and syntax can profoundly shape what they take away from the conversation. Even attempts to dispel stereotypes can backfire: as we recently reported, telling kids that girls are “as good as” boys at maths can actually leave them believing that boys are naturally better at the subject and that girls have to work harder.

Other work has shown that “generic” language can also perpetuate stereotypes: saying that boys “like to play football”, for instance, can make children believe that all boys like to play football, or that liking football is a fundamental part of being a boy.

Now a study in Psychological Science shows that when kids hear this kind of generic language, they don’t just make assumptions about the group that is mentioned — they also make inferences about unmentioned groups. That is, if children hear that boys like to play football, they might deduce that girls do not.

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Episode 24: How Children Learn Through Play

This is Episode 24 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

What role does play have in child development? In this episode, our presenter Ginny Smith talks to some top play researchers to find out how children learn new skills and concepts through play, and explores what teachers and parents can do to encourage this kind of learning. Ginny also discovers how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way kids play and learn.

Our guests, in order of appearance, are Professor Marilyn Fleer and Dr Prabhat Rai from Monash University, and Dr Suzanne Egan from the University of Limerick.

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