Speaker to shed light on how children interact

Appleton Post-Crescent

Parents will learn how infants and toddlers make social choices and interact with others during the Appleton Education Foundation’s next Community Education Program, which will be held Wednesday.

Kristin Shutts, PhDKristin Shutts, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Waisman Center, will give a free presentation titled “The Sociology of Young Children: How Infants and Children Understand Their Social World.”

The Post-Crescent talked to Shutts this week about her speech. Here is an edited transcript of the interview.

What will you go over in your speech?

Shutts: My own research is really interested in how kids think about themselves and other people as members of different social groups, and the kind of information that’s salient to them very early in development, and what might give rise to other kinds of categories and distinctions later.

When you talk to parents, which of the findings do you think are most shocking or surprising to them?

Shutts: A lot of our research is suggesting that racial prejudice or racial preference is rather late emerging in young children. If you take a 3-year-old kid and you show him a bunch of people who differ in gender or a bunch of people who differ in racial group membership, and you ask them who they want to be friends with, they’re very likely to say they want to be friends with people of their own gender.

But often we see that they don’t pay attention to racial information at that early age; it seems like they’re ignoring that information. On the other hand, by the time kids are around 4 or 5 years of age, they’re starting to notice that dimension and starting to show some social preferences based on that.

How did you get into studying the sociology of children?

Shutts: I was really interested in how kids think about their physical world. How they categorize different kinds of objects, for example. Then I started thinking how interesting it was to think about how kids interpret their social world because that’s so much more complex.