Generous babies

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Authored by

Jean Gross

In a world of (sometimes) selfish adults, it is nice to know that very young children can be generous to others in need, sharing even their most beloved and treasured personal objects. It appears that the drive to cooperate and share with others is already quite strong in toddlers

This study found that at 19 months toddlers are able to override their possessive tendencies in order to share. The experimenters showed the children a person who needed help to pick up the children’s own favourite items brought from home (e.g. a stuffed bear, their comfort blanket, or their own bottle). While some toddlers took possession of the items or ignored the person who needed help, others shared their personal object with the person who was expressing a desire for it. These toddlers shared their own items, even after they expressed a longing for it by reach out of it with their hands, rising on tip-toes, and even lunging at it.

A surprising finding that was that US babies from Hispanic/Latino and Asian households were more generous than babies from other backgrounds. The researchers suggest that this reflects that Hispanic/Latino and Asian parents work hard to teach their children to empathise with and to help others.

Find the research at