Psychology of the Child and the Adolescent

By Robert I. Watson; Henry Clay Lindgren | Go to book overview

kindergarten children with one of four treatments: (1) pairs of children enacted situations in which one person needed help, and another one provided it; (2) similar to Condition 1, except that situations were described and not enacted, and children were asked how help could be provided; (3) a combination of role playing and discussion; (4) control- children enacted roles unrelated to helping.

During the testing phase of the experiment an experimenter took each child to a playroom and left him there briefly while she went into an adjoining room to "check on a girl who is playing there." Then she returned and told the child that the girl was playing next door and that he (or she) could play with anything in the playroom. Shortly after she left, the child heard a crash from the adjoining room, followed by sounds of distress and sobbing (actually tape-recorded). While this was going on, the experimenter was watching the child's behavior through a one-way mirror. If the child went to the adjoining room to help, the experimenter appeared and explained the experiment to the child. If not, the experimenter waited for a minute and then entered the room to elicit his reaction to the sounds of distress. Each child who participated also received a bag of candy--his choice out of three kinds available. The child was then told that if he wished, some of the candy could be donated for another child who was ill and whose parents were unable to buy him anything for his birthday.

Results indicated that role playing and discussion of helping behavior had some tendency to facilitate helping of the fictitious child in distress. Although results were not clear-cut, girls were more inclined to offer help than boys.4 When it came to sharing of candy, however, boys were more inclined to do so than girls, especially if they had engaged in role playing.


summary

As the child passes from infancy into toddlerhood, the social aspects of his environment begin to be important. What families contribute, through their structure, is a sense of security. Structure refers to the predictability and stability of social relationships and implies some kind of hierarchy of authority. Today's families are becoming less structured. The ecology of the home is reflected not only by the physical conditions that prevail but also by the degree of orderliness that characterizes the activities that take place there. Much research has focused on child- rearing practices, a major feature of the child's home environment. Baumrind, who investigated the relationship between the behavior of

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4
This finding is directly opposite to results obtained in similar experiments with adults, in which men are more likely than women to volunteer to help others in difficult situations. Taking the initiative to extend help to a stranger is, of course, more consistent with the adult male role ( Wispé and Freshley, 1971; Schwartz and Clausen, 1970).

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