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Why Do Children Tattle?

When young children see a peer cause harm, they often tattle to a caregiver.

Thursday, April 5, 2018 12:01 am EDT

When young children see a peer cause harm, they often tattle to a caregiver. But why do children tattle? A new Social Development study reveals that even when children cannot be blamed for a transgression, they tattle about it nonetheless, likely because tattling may be a way for children to enforce norms on others and thus help maintain cooperation.

The research sheds new light on why young children tattle and raises the question of whether tattling should necessarily be discouraged in early childhood.

“Children's tattling is often viewed as an undesirable behavior. But at least under some circumstances, tattling can also be seen as evidence that children recognize important social norms and that they care enough about those norms to try and make sure that others follow them as well. This kind of norm enforcement is generally seen as a positive force in social groups,” said co-author Dr. Amrisha Vaish, of the University of Virginia.

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About Journal

Social Development is a major international journal dealing with all aspects of children's social development as seen from a psychological stance. It provides an outlet for empirical reports, debates and comments on theoretical and empirical issues, literature reviews and in-depth book reviews.

The main focus of Social Development is on development in childhood with lifespan, cross-species and cross-cultural perspectives enhancing our understanding of human development also explored. Coverage includes a wide range of topics such as social cognition, peer relationships, social interaction, attachment formation, emotional development and children's theories of mind. It is essential reading for developmental psychologists, social psychologists and all those concerned with teaching or research in the field of social development.

Social Development is published 4 times per year.

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Josh Glickman
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