Preschoolers Sense That More Attention is Paid to Middle-Class Kids

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True, Education: Big Kids

Middle-class children tend to speak adults as equals, interrupt more and "use their words." Credit: Getty Images

While they should be learning to work and play well with others, preschoolers are apparently learning society is divided into classes.

And they quickly figure out where they fall in the pecking order.

Researchers at the University of Michigan looked at the ways preschoolers act and how teachers respond to their students, as reported in the Vancouver Sun.

They noticed that middle-class children tend to speak adults as equals, interrupt more and "use their words." Teachers, in turn, reward this behavior.

All of this does not go unnoticed by kids from working-class and poor families who may, researchers suggest, decide early on that the game is rigged against them and therefore become cynical about school.

"As early as preschool, children have a sense that certain students get their needs met more often than others, and that certain students get attention more often than others," lead researcher Jessi Streib tells the Vancouver Sun.

The Sun reports researchers observed 4-year-olds for over eight months. Middle-class kids were more likely to speak up in class, direct classroom conversations, win disputes with their peers and interact better with adults.

"Middle-class students are constantly asking for attention in a way that working-class students are not," Streib tells Reuters. "So, even when the teachers are really trying hard to talk to everyone, they get interrupted a lot by the middle-class children and their attention is diverted."

Lower-income and poor students often get ignored or treated with a "hands off" approach as a result, she says.

This can have life-long consequences, Streib tells the news service.

"We know that over the life course, working-class children are more likely than upper middle-class children to feel like school isn't a place for them," she mentions. "But on the other hand, preschool is really important for low-income kids. So I would warn not to throw the baby out with the bathwater."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.