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Kids As Young As 5 Care About Their Reputation

Those who care about their public image — politicians, celebrities, and, apparently, kindergartners. According to a review of literature by psychologists Ike M. Silver and Alex Shaw, published by Trends in Cognitive Sciences, children as young as 5 do think carefully about how they present themselves to the world, even going as far as to create strategies to boost their reputation and social standing.

Originally, experts doubted the notion that children cared about their reputation, with some even believing that children under 9 did not put any level of priority on self-image. However, different studies have arrived to the conclusion that kids not only understand the concept of reputation, but care enough to improve it as well.

For example, in one 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, also by Alex Shaw and colleagues, it has been discovered that children behave more fairly towards others when they know they are being observed.

The one doing the observation did matter to children building their reputation. A study by Jan M. Engelmann and company that appears in Developmental Science concluded that children showed more generosity to another when they expected that the recipient will reciprocate the good deed. They were also more likely to show the same positive behavior when the observer is from within their social group.

Children do not stop with building reputation; they do put considerable effort in maintaining their reputation as well. In another study, children were observed to resist temptations to cheat — even when no one was watching and when it “conflicted with their personal interest” — when they were informed beforehand that they have a positive reputation among their peers.

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