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The formation of independent behaviour in preschoolers : an experimental analysis of conformity and independence.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1994
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number2
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)289-310
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This research tested the motivational structure of conformity and independent behaviour in children aged from 3 to 7 years of age. The experimental group consisted of the child, an adult confederate, and the experimenter. The child and the partner sat facing each other at a table, with the experimenter to one side. The child and his or her partner were asked to fulfil a certain programme that was known to them, but the confederate partner alternated correct actions with incorrect actions in random order. Variations of the experimental conditions ("screening" vs. "no-screening") of the partner indicated that imitation of the adult's incorrect actions by the child (conformity) was caused by the child's belief in the infallibility of the adult rather than by fear of the adult's disapproval (Experiment 1). Children who did not imitate the adult's incorrect actions (independence) in the presence of the experimenter, continued to behave in the same manner even after the experimenter had been isolated behind a cardboard screen (Experiment 2). Therefore, the child's independent behaviour in this situation is not a "reversed imitation" of the experimenter's signals, but rather is based on the child's self-esteem. Finally, independent behaviour could be substantially increased if during lessons in a preschool class one adult occupied a position of "child" while another behaved in traditional teacher-like ways (Experiment 3). Moreover, the independent behaviour the children exhibited toward the first adult was transferred to the second. The study showed that independent behaviour in preschool children can be enhanced in a classroom if children's traditional submissive position in their interaction with adults is replaced by a position of equal partners.