Research shows that being afraid of beards is common among children. Overall, facial hair made a big difference in how young children judged individuals.
Many children are afraid of men with beards. Whether they are screaming on Santa's lap or need to hold mom's hand each time they pass a bearded man in the grocery store, beard fear is real. Not all kids are afraid of beards, but the presence of facial hair informed their personal judgments of men regardless.
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia looked into children's perception of bearded individuals. They showed images of faces to 470 kids and young adults between the ages of two and 22. The faces were presented in pairs, both bearded and clean-shaven. Participants were asked to judge certain traits of each individual, such as attractiveness and parenting quality.
According to the results, children related beards with strength and dominance, but they do not find them attractive. The latter reverses in young adulthood, when they begin to perceive beards as attractive and indicative of good parenting.
There was an exception to the findings, however. Kids whose fathers had facial hair saw men with beards as more attractive and associated them with more positive traits.
The study's conclusions make sense when you think about them from an evolutionary standpoint. Prehistoric children likely would have looked towards men as the dominant, hunter figure who protected their family. But, if this man were from a rival tribe, he would appear more threatening. As the children aged, however, they would either be looking for a mate or seeing themselves as a potential clan leader. From this perspective, beards would be a positive thing. Remember, no one shaved back then.
In conclusion, beard perception is affected by two factors. A child's personal experience with bearded individuals combines with where they are developmentally to create how they feel about men with facial hair. In any case, facial hair is a a primary factor in how kids judge adult men.