Kids and justice

A fascinating new study from the University of Manchester finds children may have a sense of justice at a very early age.  An article by Sindya N. Bhanoo in the New York Times reported:

Children as young as age 3 will intervene on behalf of a victim, reacting as if victimized themselves, scientists have found.

“The children treated these two violations equally,” said Keith Jensen, a psychologist at the University of Manchester in England and an author of a new study appearing in the journal Current Biology.

With toys, cookies and puppets, Dr. Jensen and his colleagues tried to judge how much concern 3- and 5-year-olds had for others, and whether they had a sense of so-called restorative justice.

In one experiment, when one puppet took toys or cookies from another puppet, children responded by pulling a string that locked the objects in an inaccessible cave. When puppets took objects directly from the children themselves, they responded in the same way.

In another experiment, when an object was lost or stolen, children tried to right the wrong by returning the object to the puppet it belonged to.

“Their sense of justice is victim-focused, rather than perpetrator focused,” Dr. Jensen said. “The take-home message is that preschool children are sensitive to harm to others, and given a choice would rather restore things to help the victim than punish the perpetrator.”

Lauren Fisher

About Lauren Fisher

Lauren Fisher Flores is a recent graduate of the University of Houston Law Center. Lauren received her B.A. from Hamilton College and her Masters in Early Childhood Studies from the University of Texas at Brownsville. Before entering law school, she worked at the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) where she provided legal services and "Know Your Rights" to detained immigrant children on the Texas-Mexico border. During law school, she clerked with the Family Law Department of the Mexican Foreign Ministry in Mexico City and the Juvenile Public Defender in Maricopa County.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.