Kids Don’t Value Social Skills Until Age 5

Kids Don’t Value Social Skills Until Age 5Kids Don’t Value Social Skills Until Age 5

Parents or caregivers of young children know only too well the struggle of encouraging them to share toys and take turns during play. But according to a new study, children are unlikely to learn the value of turn-taking until the age of 5 years.

Study co-author Dr. Alicia Melis, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, and colleagues recently published their findings in the journal Psychological Science.

Turn-taking is a social skill that humans learn from a young age and apply to everyday scenarios throughout life - such as taking turns to take out the trash or collect the children from school.

In essence, turn-taking is a collaborative behavior; it requires a mutual understanding between two or more individuals that each turn-taking cycle will not always be self-beneficial, but that, overall, it can resolve a conflict of interests.

For their study, Melis and colleagues set out to investigate the age at which humans grasp the value of turn-taking, reported.

To reach their findings, researchers developed a turn-taking experiment, which they tested on 96 children - aged 3 ½ or 5 years old.

For the experiment, subjects were placed in pairs. They had to take turns to pull trays in order to receive rewards that were placed upon them; when one subject pulled a tray to obtain a reward, the reward on the other tray was lost.

Each pair of children took part in 24 turn-taking experiments. Researchers found that 5-year-old children accessed a reward in 99.5% of the turn-taking experiments, while the 3 ½-year-olds only managed to access a reward in 62.3% of the experiments.

Additionally, the 5-year-olds engaged in more turn-taking than the 3 ½-year-olds overall, and their turn-taking frequency increased with the more experiments they completed.

While the 3 ½-year-olds eventually developed a consistent turn-taking strategy, the team notes that it took a long time for them to do so. What is more, many of these younger children failed to resolve their conflicts of interest.

“Although young children are encouraged to take turns across many different situations, including in interactions with adults and when sharing resources with other children, our findings show that it was only from age 5 when the children were able to spontaneously take turns to solve a conflict of interests,” says Melis.

The findings indicate that humans learn the value of turn-taking skills over time - a sign that this social behavior requires more comprehensive cognitive functioning.