Children think birthday parties cause aging.

By Seriously Science | December 19, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Olga

Photo: flickr/Olga

If you have been around young kids, you have likely heard some of their interesting–and surprising– interpretations of everyday events, often arrived at because no one ever thought to explain things otherwise. Here’s a prime example: according to this study, young kids (age 3-5) in America apparently think that birthday parties actually *cause* you to get older. If only this were actually true – then I would just keep having my 25th birthday party forever!

Now I’m 3: Young Children’s Concepts of Age, Aging, and Birthdays

“In two studies, we examined 99 3- to 5-year-old American children’s concepts of age, aging, and birthdays. Previous research has shown that preschool-age children understand that all living beings grow, and that growth is a biological process. Humans, however, are distinct from other living things in that we attach great significance to the aging process. Specifically, in Western cultures, we have an annual ritual to celebrate the day we were born—the birthday party. Thus, although the biological mechanism of aging is continuous and invisible, it is marked by discrete yearly celebrations. We examine the proposal that, in part due to its salience as a cultural ritual, children interpret the birthday party as playing a causal role in the aging process. Results indicate that young children understand certain important biological aspects of the aging process but exhibit confusion regarding others, including the causal role of the annual birthday party.”

Related content:
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Which bedtime stories teach kids to be more honest? (Hint: it’s not Pinnochio)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: how is babby formed?
  • Not_that_anyone_cares, but…

    I was at a celebration for a elderly Yupik woman and the media asked the customary ‘To what do you contribute your long life?’. She responded salmon, no alcohol, and [something in Yupik], the last getting considerable laughter. Later I asked a friend what she said that got the laugh. The translation of what she said was ‘We have no calendar.’

    • Uncle Al

      How does one have a word for that which does not culturally exit? They do have iqualuit, right?

      • Mr. Janes

        Iqaluit is an Inuit word, or so I thought. Perhaps the Yupik use it but it was my understanding that the Yupik just add a non-verbalized sound to a Russian or English word when they need to speak of something like calendars for example.

      • Mr. Janes

        I was told by someone who might know that the Yupik once just added a non vocalized sound to the Russian or English word for things like calendar.

        ETA, by the way, iqualuit, isn’t it. Do the Yupik use it?

      • moderatelymoderate

        Perhaps what the old woman say was ‘We have no thing on the wall that shows the days.’

  • moderatelymoderate

    It’s not only children that confuse correlation with cause and effect or don’t recognize which thing is the cause and effect. I once had a coworker who claimed to believe that people who had bad lungs were drawn to smoking as a result!
    And too many believe that strict gun laws cause more violence. Instead the violence, much of it caused by looser social ties in large cities, results in stricter gun laws, that don’t work because guns are imported from areas with looser gun laws.


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