You’ve put enough quarters in the swear jar to suspect what your kiddo overhears has an impact, but now researchers have found a real connection between what parents say and what children believe.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University recently published a study that demonstrates the effect hearsay (what a child overhears other people saying) has.

The study, which was published in the journal Child Development, examined the influence adult speech had on 150 four- to nine-year-olds. A study facilitator either spoke indirectly, during a phone call, or directly to children about a fictional group of people called “Gearoos.” During the study, the facilitator made negative comments about the “Gearoos,” such as their food was disgusting or their clothing was strange.

After overhearing negative comments, 39 percent of the children said they wanted to be friends with the “Gearoos.” Only 21 percent of the children who heard direct negative speech wanted to befriend the “Gearoos.” In comparison, 67 percent of the children in the control group (who heard no negative comments) said they wanted to become friends with the fictional “Gearoos.”

So what does this study mean for your child? According to the study, researcher and assistant professor of psychology and human development Jonathon D. Lane said, “Overall, these findings carry profound implications, particularly as the United States and other nations become more polarized over issues related to diversity and inclusivity.”

The study researchers also pointed out, “By understanding how direct and indirect messages can shape children’s opinions and beliefs about people who are unfamiliar to them, ways to effectively communicate and inspire tolerance and respect may become increasingly clear.”

—Erica Loop

Featured photo: Kaboompics via Pexels



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