Volume 43, Issue 2 (2014)
Benefits, Mechanisms, and New Directions for Teaching Gratitude to Children
Kristin Layous, Sonja Lyubomirsky
Abstract. The present commentary considers the theoretical and applied implications of Froh, Bono, and colleagues' benefit-appraisals intervention to promote graditude among youth. First, we discuss the developmental competencies that children need to master before they can benefit from this intervention. The target curriculum was successful among 8- to 11-year-olds, but we predict that it would be less effective in children of younger ages. As children's theory of mind and capacity to understand emotions and take another's perspective develop, so too will their ability to feel and express heartfelt gratitude and, in turn, their capacity to benefit from gratitude inductions. Second, we discuss the broader implications of instilling a habit of gratitude in youth. Specifically, because gratitude is associated with greater well-being and stronger social relationships, we predict that fostering gratitude in youth could give rise to numerous positive long-term consequences. Third, additional questions remain about the curriculum itself, including the mechanisms underlying its success and its efficacy relative to simpler gratitude inductions. Lastly, we discuss the potential downsides of compelling children to express gratitude (e.g., whether it could backfire if children lack intrinsic motivation). Overall, we praise this work as an important step in increasing gratitude in children and stimulating thinking about the developmental processes associated with gratitude, as well as its long-term downstream consequences.
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