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J Exp Child Psychol. 1991 Oct;52(2):221-38.

The influence of children's facial maturity on parental expectations and punishments.

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Department of Psychology, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02254.


It was hypothesized that the perception of maturefaced children as more able to follow complicated instructions, more likely to know right from wrong, more shrewd, and physically stronger than their babyfaced peers would lead parents to assign more demanding tasks to these children and to judge their misbehavior more harshly. Study 1 revealed that parents allocated more cognitively demanding, but not more physically demanding, chores to maturefaced 11 year old depicted in photographs than to babyfaced children of the same age and attractiveness. Study 2 revealed that parents perceived the misbehaviors of maturefaced 4- and 11-year-old children as more intentional than those of their babyfaced peers, an effect that was significant only when parents judged children of the opposite sex. Study 2 further revealed that, with perceived intentionality held constant, a babyface mitigated the severity of punishment recommended for relatively serious infractions by preschoolers, while increasing it for older children. The latter finding was discussed in light of other evidence that people react negatively to the disconfirmation of their benign expectations regarding babyfaced individuals, and that parents perceived the misbehaviors as more unexpected for 11 year olds than 4 year olds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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