Children May Not Be As Innocent As You Think
From an Adult Perspective
Ah, children, they can be so sweet and kind, unaware of the big cruel world out there. As adults, we look down on children, completely believing that they are pure and virtuous. Children don't have hidden agendas, they don't create wars or murder others, right? This makes them completely void of evil... right?
Maybe not, because in reality children are just as human as the rest of us, and as hard as it is to swallow, not all of those children end up as very "good" adults. Of course that isn't to say that nurture doesn't affect them, maybe these children are pure and their future selves are simply an outcome of our nurturing. Maybe the fault lies with us and the rest of society.
So how would you measure the innocence of a child, remove all other factors and focus simply on their individual characters? The only answer is to observe them, like many behavioral experts and scientists have done.
Think back to when you were a child, as young as you can remember, how many times did you lie to your parents? Humans lie on average 2-3 times in a 10 minute conversation, even unknowingly. For the longest time, scientists and psychologists believed that children did not have the ability to lie until the age of 4. However, a new study has shown that infants as young as 6 months will lie to their parents for attention, or to simply see what they can get away with.
Can you remember your first lie? Probably not, chances are you began lying much younger than the age of 4.
Behavioural experts have found that infants begin to lie from as young as six months. Simple fibs help to train them for more complex deceptions in later life.— Richard Gray
Infants will even fake cry for attention, it's much easier to detect this than you think, next time an infant cries, listen carefully, because they will pause to see if their parent or mother is coming to take care of them before they resume crying. Now of course crying is necessary for infants to alert their parents in case something is wrong, however, infants will occasionally cry when nothing is wrong as well simply for the sake of attention.
But what does this prove? Well, it definitely goes to show that children know how to deceive adults, but even more so it proves that they understand the consequence of their actions.
In Lord of The Flies *spoiler warning* we see that there is darkness even in the heart of a child, darkness that seeps out in desperate situations. The novel's many characters are anything but kind in the beginning of the novel, we see them discriminate and ridicule Piggy for being overweight. Jack and his little band become "savage" and power-hungry, there is even - at one point - murder. Let's not mention the complete disrespect the children have for nature and how they practically burned down half the island.
But let's get back on track, can these actions be justified by simply saying that they were ignorant of the consequences of their actions? Well if we look back to the study of babies and how they learn to lie and the consequences of lying, then it's obvious that Ralph, Jack, and the other children, probably knew what they were doing was "bad". Especially if you read the ending to the novel and noted how Jack immediately feels guilt once the naval officer arrives, and instead lets Ralph do the talking.
Guilt can only be felt when one understands the consequence of their misdeed.
Of course, not all children are violent, it's more accurate to say that children understand violence as well as adults or perhaps, they understand violence enough to know that it is wrong.
The Beginning of Prejudice?
Multiple studies were performed to identify if there is any evidence of racism or prejudice among young children.
6-month old children were shown multiple faces, each face was a different color, the infants stared longer at faces of different colors, this is most likely because the children were unfamiliar with the faces that were not the same color as theirs. This of course doesn't mean that children are outright racist, but it may imply that children need to be taught that it's okay to be different.
Another study was done on preschoolers; they were told to wear either a red or a blue t-shirt for three weeks. Afterwards the children began to believe that those who wore the same color were better than the ones who didn't, indicating that favoritism is not limited to just the adult world.
While none of these studies prove that children are racist, for racism is an active hatred for another group, in-group favoritism can certainly be influenced by the adults that surround them and grow into more hostile and racist mindsets.
This is another similar yet separate study to the one where 6-month olds were shown pictures of faces of different races.
All the studies I mentioned are linked in the bottom!
Nurture is Necessary
Needless to say, babies may not be born into this world completely innocent, some things are genetically hard-wired into us. Lying for example may actually be necessary for survival, even if it's not good, bluffing could possibly one day save your life. In-group favouritism to some extent is also necessary, because in nature animals need to flock together with the strongest to survive.
However, if nurtured the wrong way, this hard-wiring can go very wrong, lying constantly and getting away with it can make anyone manipulative, and the in-group favouritism can of course lead to racism.
That's why children must be raised with love and attention, but they must also be clearly told what they should and shouldn't do, they must be raised so that they can feel empathy and pain for others and are inclusive of everyone they meet.
Do you believe children are completely innocent?
- Not That Innocent: Teaching Kids About Morals, Race & Mental Health
Do preschoolers need therapy? Are babies racist? Two stories this week challenge the notion that kids live in an innocent world, free of the problems and stereotypes that complicate adult life.
- Babies not as innocent as they pretend - Telegraph
Whether lying about raiding the biscuit tin or denying they broke a toy, all children try to mislead their parents at some time. Yet it now appears that babies learn to deceive from a far younger age than anyone previously suspected.
- UMass researcher finds most people lie in everyday conversation | EurekAlert! Science News
Most people lie in everyday conversation when they are trying to appear likable and competent, according to a study conducted by University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert S. Feldman and published in the most recent Journal of Basic and Applied