Attention hipsters and other bearded fellows: Adults might think your beard makes you look cool, but young children give it a thumbs down.
A new study that tested opinions of 470 children, ages 2 through 17, and 164 adults ranging from ages 18-21 found that “younger children, older children, and young adolescents did not associate beardedness with attractiveness.’’
But good news for bearded daddies: Children of men with beards had more positive reactions to facial hair than children of dads who were clean-shaven, researchers found.
The study, published in “Evolution and Human Behavior,” the June 2019 edition, was led by Nicole Nelson, of the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, Australia.
Strong and manly
Children might not think they look so great, but young children did perceive men with beards as being strong and manly.
“Children as young as 2-5 years associated beardedness with dominance traits, linking bearded faces with masculinity, strength, and age,’’ the study says
Researchers showed study participants photos, one of a man with a beard and one who was clean-shaven. They asked which man looked stronger, older, most like a man, most like a dad and best overall.
“Younger children, older children, and early adolescents … were all less likely than adults to select the bearded face when asked which looked best,’’ the study said. “Late adolescents and adults were similarly likely to select the bearded face.”
The findings of this study are fascinating, especially from a bearded pediatrician’s standpoint, but I wouldn’t break out the razors and shaving cream just yet. The investigators compared pictures of men initially clean-shaven and then after “4-8 weeks of natural beard growth.” That is like No-Shave November, with potentially holding out until Christmas. That does sound scary.
Some of the adult literature looking at attitudes toward beards has looked at gradients of hair growth from a few days of stubble to full Grizzly Adams and found that all beard lengths do not get the same response.
One explanation for the results of the University of Queensland study: Younger children taken care of mostly by women might be more accustomed to female faces. "Thus, greater exposure to female faces may bias preferences toward feminine faces in young children,’’ the study said.
Kids’ attitudes toward beards seem to soften up when they hit puberty.
“For adolescents, judgments of beards as reflecting masculinity, strength, fathering skills, and attractiveness increased significantly from early to late adolescence, becoming more adult-like during this period,'' the study said.
I think the best take-away from the study is the improved attitude toward beards in children who have exposure to bearded men in their life. It shows the power that we all have in the lives of the youth around us to shape their perceptions. So all of you bearded dads, uncles, grandfathers, teachers, coaches, and even pediatricians, go out and be the best Beard Ambassadors that you can!