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What do kids think about beards?

To celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, I thought I would share some fun “Dad related” content. What’s more Dad than beards?! As a fun bonus, this post includes research that I was lucky enough to be involved in conducting.

Humans are experts in perceiving information from faces. We interpret different facial features and elements to tell us things about the people they belong to. A big smile tells us they’re happy, a strong jaw tells us they’re athletic – but how we learn to understand and associate these traits is unknown. I mean… what does a beard tell us?

Scientists going all the way back to Charles Darwin have pondered the purpose of beards. Darwin thought beards might somehow help men charm the opposite sex. Scientific research on beards is lacking, but generally beards appear to signal messages of dominance and strength, at least among adults. Research shows that women of child-bearing age, especially women with children, perceive bearded men as better potential fathers.

In an effort to better understand how these perceptions of prototypical ‘masculinity’ develop - my colleagues and I were interested in how children view beards. We tested this with almost 500 children ranging in age from toddlers to teenagers. We showed them side-by-side photos of men sporting a beard and then that same man, clean-shaven. We asked children, ‘Which man looks stronger?’ ‘Which man looks older?’ ‘Which man looks best?'”

We found that like adults, even two-year-olds think beards make you look stronger, older, and more masculine. But when asked which face looked “best,” children overwhelmingly avoided choosing the bearded men.

Importantly, experience plays a big role. Children with bearded dads viewed beards more positively than children who didn’t. So, your child will like your face however you have it, whether it is bearded, stubbled or clean-shaven.

Does your child’s father have a beard? How do your kids feel about it? Let us know in the comments!

References: Nelson, Kennedy-Costantini, Lee & Dixson 2019; Dixson, Kennedy-Costantini, Lee & Nelson 2019; Mondloch et al 1999

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