Why I picked it up: Museum-goers tell me museums have contributed to their understanding of others, and that it happens over a lifetime, starting from childhood. This study focuses on kindness (including compassion and empathy), so the relevance seemed, at least initially, obvious.
What it is: A survey of 2000 children ages 6 to 12. It tells us their views, as well as what they think their parents believe. Interesting, as what they think their parents believe may different than what their parents actually believe. Not a bad approach, seeing how parental attitudes and behaviors are translated to children. Additionally, there are a fair number of restrictions around surveying children this young, so I'm grateful for any solid source that provides data directly from children like this.
Good news nugget: 2/3 of children did indicate a fundamental understanding of the concept of empathy, with older children being somewhat more likely than younger ones, which is understandable.
Is it useful to museums? To be honest, I found this of limited use to museums. It is helpful to get a "lay of the land" on children, especially if children and their families are a key audience segment. But otherwise, not directly useful. Instead, the audience for this data is parents, with a goal of helping parents prioritize showing kindness.
That being said, they have a great summary infographic that is worth a look.
Methodological gripe: I found some of the questions a bit problematic, methodology-wise. For example, they ask: "What do you think is most important to your parents, that you're happy, do well in school, or are kind?" 44% responded that they are happy, 33% that they do well in school, and 23% said being kind. The study then goes on to note "Parents, you may think that the kindness message--being a good person with strong values--is getting through to your kids, but the survey data shows that kids think otherwise."
REALLY? That's not how I read it. This isn't a zero-sum game. The question only allowed one answer, and I can see a child being torn in how to answer. The fact that 77% chose things other than kindness doesn't tell me that parents are not teaching and/or modeling kindness. It tells me that there are two other things that come out ahead, but the margin is totally unclear. It could be big (in which case their conclusion that children are not getting the kindness message is correct). But I suspect it is fairly narrow, with parents likely valuing all three things. How this question is asked, however, doesn't allow children to provide any nuance. Thus, I took all of the results with a bit of a grain of salt.
Full citation: "State of the Kid 2017." Highlights for Children. 2017.
Have a suggestion for my reading list? Email it to me at susie (at) wilkeningconsulting (dot) com.
I respectfully acknowledge that I live and work on the traditional lands of the Duwamish people. I thank them for the care of this land, and I endeavor to help museums bring forward a more complete and inclusive history and culture in their work.