A new study published in the May 2006 issue of Developmental Psychology
suggests that children are slow to label other children as "mean." Researchers found that children needed only one example of a kid behaving nicely to describe that child as "nice." On the other hand, kids needed five examples of bad behavior to judge another child as "mean." The study's authors suggest that children may actually have a "positivity bias" that leads them to look for the best in people. The results also indicate that preschool age children have an understanding of personality. Previous research suggested that such an understanding wasn't established until grade school.
This positive outlook could also have negative consequences. In a Wake Forest Universtiy press release, lead researcher Janet Boseovski said, "While it is adaptive for young children to see the world in a positive way, because it encourages them to try new things and also fosters the formation of social relationships, it is also a concern that they may be too trusting of strangers and acquaintances."
Preschoolers slow to call people 'mean' says Wake Forest psychologist