Altruism in Preschool

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Teaching altruistic behavior in a four-year-old preschool classroom Stephanie Arnold, Priscilla Bermudez, Laura Robles, Michele Terreri Rutgers University

Abstract
Developmental research has been performed to study pro-social behavior in children in a preschool setting. This has been studied in connection with emotions and reasoning. Previous research has found varying results when analyzing a preschooler’s decision on if and when they will share with peers. A previous study by the same team showed that preschool age children are significantly more likely to share with peers who display pro-social behavior as opposed to antisocial behavior. Sixteen four-year old children in New Jersey preschools were studied to see if an intervention would teach altruistic behavior. This was performed using photographs of peers associated with accompanying stories. Future research might allow spacing between the intervention and post-test.

Introduction
Psychological research has been performed to show weather or not young children understand morality as well as emotions. Empirical research has further examined altruistic as well as selfish behaviors. Gummerum, Hanoch, Keller, Parsons, and Hummel (2010) studied how children understand and behave in regard to emotional ascription and moral judgment. Their study included preschool-age children in a professional childcare setting. The children were given stickers and presented with various situations in which they chose if they wanted to share. They found that girls shared more often than boys, which is what they hypothesized. This supports the theory that selfless behaviors are displayed more often by girls than boys. Gummerum et al. (2010) agued that parental socialization practices as the likely reason as to why there is a difference between genders. They further explain that girls are often praised more than boys for altruistic actions.

McCrink, Bloom, and Santos (2010) also studied how four and five year old children address sharing. The children observed various scenarios involving puppets with coins. They found that the children had a preference towards the nicer puppet in context to pro-social behavior. The subjects also indicated that they believed that richer puppets were nicer than poorer puppets. McCrink et al. (2010) speculated that the subjects’ theory of mind formation should be taken into account when analyzing how they share. Furthermore, they predicted that children who held an egocentric mental state would perform differently than ones who were altruistic. McCrink et al. (2010) compared the results from the children to adults. The adult behaviors were different than the children in many scenarios due to the fact that they fixated on proportion. Their study showed that adults did not have a tendency to favor puppets based on their “wealth” while the children that were studied exhibited the exact opposite preference. They also discovered that adults did not believe that niceness was gauged on if a puppet was rich or poor, while the children favored the opposite attitude again. (Gummerum et al., 2010) Arnold, Bermudez, Robles, and Terreri (2012) studied the relationship between pro-social behavior, antisocial behavior, and sharing in four-year-old children in regard to sharing. The subjects were first presented with three stickers, and told that they would be able to take one home with them at the conclusion of the session. The researchers then articulated two stories and two complementary photographs of random preschool-age children for each participant. Subjects were told one of the children in the photographs represented a prosocial peer, and that the other picture signified an antisocial peer. The participants were asked if they wanted to share any stickers. This study showed that preschool-aged children share significantly more with pro-social peers as opposed to ones that displayed antisocial behavior. They did not find any...
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