While it might seem like your five-year-old thinks the world revolves around him, the truth is he or she is well aware of what others think and takes those opinions to heart. According to a report published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, kids start caring about their reputations in kindergarten.
The review looked at several recent studies and found that not only are kids that young concerned with their reputations, but they are willing and able to behave in certain ways to ensure that they maintain those good reps.
By age five, kids begin to recognize that “their actions can signal important information about their desirability to potential social partners, and they will vary their behavior based on audience and social context.” In other words, kids realize that how they behave can change their friends’ and family’s opinion of them, and they will act a certain way to ensure that they are liked.
The study found that kids are more generous when they know they are being watched. They were also selective about the people they chose to impress. They behaved more generously with someone that they knew they would see again and who could potentially be generous in return. (We see how it is.)
We may live in a world where validation from our peers rests on thumbs-up buttons and smiling emojis, but for young kids, it still boils down to their face-to-face interactions, and research shows that kids as young as kindergartners worry about the impressions they are making on their classmates and friends.