Children start to worry about their reputations from the age of five, say psychologists.
By the time they go to nursery school, they are already developing “adult” concerns about social status, according to a review of recent research.
Dr Alex Shaw, one of the authors from the University of Chicago, US, said: “We’re finding that the kinds of complex and strategic self-presentation behaviour we see in adults appear at a much younger age than previously known.”
A child’s awareness of social standing cascades down from adults and spans all cultures, said the researchers, writing in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
Like adults, young children wanted to be accepted by those they admire.
Five-year-olds also behaved “strategically” to improve their image, altering behaviour to appear “moral” or “socially good” in the eyes of key observers, said the experts.
Co-author Ike Silver, from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, US, said: “Children are sensitive to how those around them behave, including adults who highly value their reputations.
“Moving forward, a question we’re thinking about is, ‘what happens even earlier than age five?’ We don’t believe children show up to the first day of kindergarten and have the idea of reputation suddenly pop into existence.”