Kids Prefer Friends Who Talk Just Like They Do

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There’s a new report that suggests kids are most likely to befriend another child if they sound or talk just like them. As a matter of fact, one study says that growing up with a diverse crowd of kids doesn’t always encourage children to be more accepting of different accents.

New research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that kids will only gravitate toward other kids who sound like them, even if they are mixed in with a group of children that comes from all corners of the country, much less the world.

"It's common knowledge that adults unconsciously discriminate against others based on the way they speak, but we wanted to understand when, how and why these biases develop," said lead author Melissa Paquette-Smith, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Previous studies have also suggested that children have quite strong preferences when it comes to picking out their friends on the playground. They will most likely pick kids that they not only have things in common with (such as a favorite sport, activity, or even a fondness for the same color), but they definitely want to be around someone that speak the same dialect as they do.

In one study, children were shown pairs of young kids on a computer screen. They all spoke English, but one had a Canadian accent while the other one had a British accent. After listening to both accents, the children were then asked who they would prefer as a friend. Needless to say, the participants of the study picked the child who sounded more like them.

A second experiment had the children listen to voices of children who were born and raised in Korea and had learned English as a second language. Even though the children showed a preference for the Canadian accents in the first experiment, the effect was even greater in the second experiment.

Paquette-Smith added, "Even though they were regularly exposed to a variety of accents, Canadian children still preferred to be friends with peers who spoke with a Canadian accent over peers who spoke with a British accent. The amount of exposure children had to other accents in everyday life did not seem to dampen these preferences.”

It doesn’t mean children are biased against those with non-native accents.Instead, it’s more because children are driven towards familiarity and it has very little to do with a “dislike” towards people who speak differently than they do. Kids just want a friend that they can easily talk to and understand.

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