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Children who understand peers' perspective more popular, study says
Children who better understand others' perspectives and feelings are more likely to become and stay popular among peers, according to a recent look at 20 studies from around the world. - photo by Mandy Morgan
Children who better understand others' perspectives and feelings are more likely to become and stay popular among peers, according to results of 20 different studies involving over 2,000 children from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America that were released in April.

Making and keeping friends is one of the greatest challenges of childhood. However, having "theory of mind" can be what draws many children to others, Science Daily reported on the study, from information provided by the Society for Research in Child Development.

"The ability to figure out what other people are thinking and feeling comes into play in interpersonal interactions and helps us understand complex social situations, such as when one person double crosses another or uses sarcasm," the story said.

When children can understand others or, even better relate to them real relationships can be built, and ultimately, that's what people want, including children. The ability to do this is called theory of mind.

Theory of mind is understanding different perspectives, knowledge and motivations, and understanding that those things affect others' actions and behavior, according to

Most children have the ability to generally understand the motives and mind of other people at the age of 2, especially when it comes to being aware of and learning to use manipulation, the article said.

However, there are always children who don't have a keen theory of mind or the ability to easily understand what others may be feeling or thinking, and these are often the less popular children amonst their peers.

The study also found that the ties with theory of mind and popularity took place both with not only younger, preschool-aged children, but also with older children.

This suggests that understanding others' mental perspectives is important for making friends in the early school years and for maintaining friendships as children grow older, the study said.

Understanding the positive effects of theory of mind can help parents better aid children in working to understand their peers' perspectives and finding ways to relate and make more solid friendships.

"Our findings suggest that training children to be sensitive to others' thoughts and feelings may improve their relationship with peers," said Virginia Slaughter, the head of the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, who led the study. "This may be particularly important for children who are struggling with friendship issues, such as children who are socially isolated."