A new study suggests that children prefer clean shaves over a beard from age 2 until the pre-teen years. But don't worry, dads. Your kids still like your bearded or bare face just fine.

By Libby Ryan
Getty Images
Getty Images

You know those slightly cruel viral videos where dads with big bushy beards shave their faces and surprise their babies on camera with a clean-shaven chin? The little ones usually cry, or shriek, or reach out to touch the spot where the hair used to be. We know it's probably wrong to have a soft spot for that kind of trick, but the whole thing is so dang cute. However, new research suggests that once the dust settles from a barbering ambush, kids might actually prefer folks who skip the stubble.

A recent study suggests that while kids think beards indicate a person of strength, they also think most faces look better without them.

Study author Nicole Nelson, an Australian researcher who investigates the judgments people make based on faces, said, “Adults have strong feelings about bearded faces, and judge them to be stronger, older, more masculine, more attractive, and better parents." But do kids feel the same way about some scruff? Well, it's complicated.

“Children can use faces to judge everything from someone's age and gender to their health, feelings, or dominance," Nelson explained. "Beards mean different things to children depending on their age."

Babies don't seem to have much of an opinion about beards, contrary to those prank videos' hypotheses. But once toddlerhood hits, they start to make judgments. For the purposes of the study, Nelson and her team showed kids two photos of the same men, with and without beards. “Children saw beards as indicating someone who is strong and old as early as 2 years of age," she said. "But they also avoided beards when we asked them who looked best."

In other words, the bearded adults might seem strong, but most kids still prefer a clean-cut look. “It wasn't until children reached puberty that they stopped avoiding beards when we asked them about attractiveness,” said Nelson. In typical teenage fashion, “14 to 17-year-olds were ambivalent about beards.”

But for dads wondering whether to break out the razor, Nelson had some reassuring findings. “Children like their dad's face however it normally is, whether it is bearded or clean-shaven,” said Nelson. “Bearded dads might keep in mind, though, that their children's friends who have clean-shaven dads might find them a bit intimidating.”

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