A new study published in the academic journal Child Development by scholars from the Central European University and Bar-Ilan University has revealed how children perceive concepts such as leadership and hierarchy, according to a press release from the latter university on Thursday.
The researchers examined whether children view leaders as more entitled individuals, that is preferential treatment, or as more responsible individuals relative to non-leaders. After presenting five-year-old Israeli children with stories about a group who elected a leader or go to an amusement park, it was found that children expected a leader to contribute more to a joint goal that is non-leader partner. Similarly, the children tested also expected a leader to withdraw an equal share (not more) from the common prize, and judged a leader more harshly than a non-leader for not adhering to these two behaviors.
"These findings show that children view leaders as more responsible (not more entitled), relative to non-leaders, in two collaborative contexts," said the study's first author, Dr. Maayan Stavans, of Central European University, who collaborated on the research with Prof. Gil Diesendruck, of the Department of Psychology at Bar-Ilan University.
"Our focus on collaborative situations, extends prior research presenting primarily competitive or neutral contexts. It is also a first demonstration that children understand conferred leadership by election."
"Because children were not asked about familiar kinds of authority figures, such as teachers and parents, nor about situations in their everyday lives, their responses reflect sophisticated ideas about leadership applied to novel protagonists and situations. While impressive, we have yet to understand how children come to think leaders have increased responsibility, at what point do they begin to represent leaders’ increased entitlement (as adults do!), and how dependent are these representations on context," added Dr. Stavans.The impact of this study can be significant in shaping parenting styles to result in better parent-child relationships.