Do children believe that "everything happens for a reason?" That is, do children endorse purpose-based, teleological explanations for significant life events, as they do for social behavior, artifacts, biological properties, and natural kinds? Across three experiments, 5- to 7-year-olds (N = 80), 8- to 10-year-olds (N = 72), and adults (N = 91) chose between teleological and nonteleological accounts of significant life events and judged how helpful those accounts were for understanding an event's cause. Five- to 7-year-olds favored teleological explanations, but this preference diminished with age. Five- to 7-year-olds and 8- to 10-year-olds also found teleological explanations more helpful than did adults. Perceiving purpose in life events may therefore have roots in childhood, potentially reflecting a more general sensitivity to purpose in the social and natural worlds.
© 2014 The Authors. Child Development © 2014 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.