Parent socialization of children’s gratitude


Book Section

© Cambridge University Press 2018. Parent Socialization of Children’s Gratitude Thank-You Note I wanted small pierced earrings (gold), You gave me slippers (gray). My mother said that she would scold Unless I wrote to say How much I like them. Not much. -Judith Viorst The desire to cultivate gratitude in ourselves and others dates back centuries, as is evident in the early writings of Aristotle on virtues (Thomson, 1955), although our understanding of what gratitude means continues to evolve through ongoing scholarly debate and societal discourse (Kapp, 2013; Reiser, 2014). One of the voices in this debate comes from social psychologists affiliated with the Positive Psychology movement who spearheaded research that has shaped our understanding of gratitude in adults. These researchers differentially adopt the view of gratitude as a life orientation (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010); a character, virtue, or personality trait (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008); and a mood or emotional state (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002). Research based on this view shows that adults and adolescents who more strongly endorse gratitude traits also report greater life satisfaction, better health outcomes, and more successful relationships (see Algoe, Haidt, & Gable, 2008; Bausert et al., Chapter 7, this volume; Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Froh, Kashdan, Ozimkowski, & Miller, 2009; Wood et al., 2010). Similar research with children has lagged behind that with adults, although this volume is one of a handful of recent works demonstrating growing interest in this topic. As with other areas of research, the psychological study of gratitude has largely followed a downward extension model with the goal of uncovering how early in childhood scientists can replicate findings from adult samples. This approach to understanding gratitude in children aligns with that from the classic descriptive focus of developmental psychology that seeks to identify at what ages a given competency emerges. More recent approaches to understanding development, such as the developmental science framework (Cairns & Elder, 2001), eschew age difference findings as an end goal in favor of understanding how a given competency emerges over ontogeny and what form it takes within the system of influences from which that competency might arise. To meet this aim, a developmental science approach must squarely tackle the issues of what gratitude is at its core, how it changes with ontogeny, and how we best capture its elements as they emerge first in a nascent and then in a mature form.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hussong, AM; Langley, HA; Coffman, JL; Halberstadt, AG; Costanzo, PR

Published Date

  • January 1, 2017

Book Title

  • Developing Gratitude in Children and Adolescents

Start / End Page

  • 199 - 219

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781107182721

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/9781316863121.010

Citation Source

  • Scopus