Why Do Children Imitate Adults?
To understand us better, children watch and observe us; copying our behaviours and facial expressions without us really noticing they are doing it. Although children quickly learn to copy and mimic us, they will never become a complete copy of us; however, we will have a large impact on the overall formation of their characters. According to Albert Bandura, a child psychologist, children learn by imitating what they see in their peers and role models. They don't just imitate their parents; it has also been found that children will also imitate characters from their favourite TV shows and cartoons.
Dr Moritz Daum, a pyschologist from the University of Zurich, thinks that imitating people enables children to feel part of their social groups and gives them a strong sense of belonging: one of the essential needs of human beings.
When Do Children Begin to Imitate Adults?
Imitation behaviour begins soon after birth. Sometimes, newborn babies replicate some of the actions of their parents, such as sticking out their tongues and smiling. Six month old babies can understand the movements which their parents make, for example, a baby can be aware that their parent is going to pick them up, just by observing the way that the parent approaches, thus making them feel happy and warm. Babies' ability to recognise certain behaviours provides a basis for them to be able to understand sequences of action. When babies are aged between 19-24 months, they start to copy what they see in their environment. They possess the ability to mimic their parents', siblings'. and favourite characters' behaviours.
Children Will Imitate Regardless of Whether the Results are Positive or Negative.
In 2007, Yale University carried out an experiment on children's imitating behaviours; the results of which were shared in Yale News by Derek Lyon.
During the experiment, children aged three, were divided into two groups. The first group of children were shown by an adult how to open a box. During the demonstration, lots of unnecessary steps were added in order to complicate and lengthen the method of opening the box. When the children tried opening the box for themselves, they followed all of the steps which had been shown to them, including the unnecessary ones.
The children in the second group were given the box but they were not shown how to open it; they were able to work out how to open the box for themselves in a way which was simple (without any of the unnecessary steps shown to the first group).
The experiment clearly showed that children will imitate adults, regardless of whether the results are positive or negative because they want to feel part of a group and want to feel comfortable and safe in their actions: the same feeling they get when they are part of a family.