Melinda Carpenter · Social motivations in infants and young children: Affiliation, alignment, and prosocial behavior
Humans may be unique among animals in our social motivations, for example in the extent to which we identify with and wish to align ourselves with our fellow group members. I show here that these social motivations are already present in infancy and early childhood. I present a series of studies on imitation, affiliation, and identification, which highlight young children’s connections with their social group and document their early preferential treatment of in- vs. out-group members. A theme running through many of these studies is the prevalence of prosocial motivations in children as well, in particular their tendency to help others. Thus I also take some time to discuss helping in young children, for example showing how eager children are to help others in general, but at the same time how children’s tendency to help can be increased further, and how selective children are regarding whom they help. I conclude that strong social and prosocial motivations are seen already beginning in infancy.