Abstract and Keywords
Analysis of the development of gossip and reputation during childhood can help with understanding these processes in adulthood, as well as with understanding children’s own social worlds. Five stages of gossip-related behavior and reputation-related cognition are considered. Infants seem to be prepared for a reputational world in that they are sensitive to social stimuli; approach or avoid social agents who act positively or negatively to others, respectively; and point interaction partners toward relevant information. Young children engage in verbal signaling (normative protests and tattling) about individuals who violate social norms. In middle childhood, the development of higher-order theory of mind leads to a fully explicit awareness of reputation as something that can be linguistically transmitted. Because of this, preadolescents start to engage in increased conflict regarding others’ verbal evaluations. Finally, during adolescence and adulthood, gossip becomes more covert, more ambiguous, and less openly negative. The driving force behind all these changes is seen as children’s progressive independence from adults and dependence on peer relationships.
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