024: How (and when) does my child understand fairness?

fairness peter blake katie mcauliffe

We talked a while ago about sharing, and how you can understand the developmental processes that your child needs to go through before s/he truly understands what it means to share.

One of the inputs to sharing behavior is an understanding of what is fair, and Drs. Peter Blake and Katie McAuliffe talk us through what we know about what children understand about fairness.  This episode will help you to understand how much of the idea of fairness is naturally culturally transmitted to children and what you can do to encourage a sense of fairness in your child, which is important for their own social well-being and for the benefit of our society – this has implications for ideas like the development of perceptions about race and gender that we’ll be talking more about in upcoming episodes.


Blake, P.R., Corbit, J., Callaghan, T.C., & Warneken, F. (2016). Give as I give: Adult influence on children’s giving in two cultures. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 152, 149-160. DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2016.07.010

Blake, P.R., McAuliffe, K., Corbit, J., Callaghan, T.C., Barry, O, Bowie, A., Kleutsch, L., Kramer, K.L., Ross, E., Vongsachang, H., Wrangham, R., & Warneken, F. (2015). The ontogeny of fairness in seven societies. Nature 528, 258-261. DOI:10.1038/nature15703

Blake, P.R., Rand, D.G., Tingley, D., & Warneken, F. (2015). The shadow of the future promotes cooperation in a repeated prisoner’s dilemma for children. Scientific Reports 5, Article number 14559. DOI: 10.1038/srep14559

Blake, P.R., & McAuliffe, K. (2011). “I had so much it didn’t seem fair”: Eight-year-olds reject two forms of inequity. Cognition 120, 215-224. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2011.04.006

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Chernyak, N., & Kushnir, T. (2013). Giving preschoolers choice increases sharing behavior. Psychological Science 24, 1971-1979.

Jordan, J.J., McAuliffe, K., & Warneken, F. (2014). Development of in-group favoritism in children’s third-party punishment of selfishness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111(35), 12710-12715. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1402280111

McAuliffe, K., Blake, P.R., Steinbeis, N., & Warneken, F. (2017). The developmental foundations of human fairness.  Nature (Human Behavior) 1 (Article 00042), 1-9.

McAuliffe, K., Jordan, J.J., & Warneken, F. (2015). Costly third-party punishment in young children. Cognition 134, 1-10. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2014.08.013

Schmuckler, M.A. (2001). What is ecological validity? A dimensional analysis. Infancy 2(4), 419-436. Full article available at: http://utsc.utoronto.ca/~marksch/Schmuckler%202001.pdf


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