Children’s expressions of gratitude and their association with cultural values among Brazilians, Brazilians in the U. S., and U.S. ethnic groups

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Elisa Avellar Merçon de Vargas (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Jonathan Tudge

Abstract: Gratitude has mostly been studied as a positive emotion, although scholars have suggested that this conceptualization is confounded with appreciation. In contrast, I define gratitude as a moral virtue; it occurs when one person receives a freely given benefit, recognizes the intentionality of the benefactor, and freely wishes to repay with something of benefit to the benefactor. Gratitude as a moral virtue involves autonomy and relatedness. The cultural dimensions proposed by Kagitçibasi’s (2007) were used here to understand potential cultural variations in the expression of gratitude. The present study aimed to investigate associations between parents’ values and children’s wishes with expressions of gratitude across both societies and groups within the United States. Children (aged 7 to 14) answered two open-ended questions: “What is your greatest wish?” and “What would you do for the person who granted you this wish?” Answers to the first question were categorized as (a) hedonistic, (b) self-, and (c) social-oriented wishes. Those to the second question were categorized as (a) verbal, (b) concrete, and (c) connective gratitude. Parents completed a questionnaire of values for their children with four sub-scales (autonomy, heteronomy, relatedness, and separateness). First, I conducted factor and mean structure analyses to examine differences and similarities in parents’ values within the U. S. (187 European American, 126 African American, 107 Brazilian immigrants, and 102 Hispanics) and across societies (192 Brazilian, 187 European American, and 107 Brazilian immigrants). Secondly, I used multi-group latent class analysis to explore differences in children’s expressions of gratitude across ethnic groups (N = 467; 148 European Americans, 110 Brazilians in the U. S., 106 Hispanics, and 103 African Americans) and societies (N = 614; 274 from Greensboro, 230 from Porto Alegre, and 110 Brazilian immigrants). Finally, I used multinomial logistic regression to explore associations of children’s wishes and parental values with children’s expressions of gratitude. Contrary to what I had expected, Brazilian parents (in the home country and in the United States) scored higher on autonomy than did European Americans; also, Brazilians in the U. S. scored higher in heteronomy than did European Americans and Brazilians. However, all these groups scored higher in both relatedness and autonomy than in heteronomy. Regarding gratitude expressions, with wishes as predictors, Brazilians in the U. S. were more likely than were European Americans to express gratitude verbally than concretely. Brazilians in their home country seemed to be more likely than were other groups to express more than one type of gratitude at the same time. Children expressing hedonistic wishes were less likely to express connective rather than verbal gratitude (for European Americans), and connective rather than verbal and concrete gratitude (for Brazilians in the U. S.). For African Americans, expressing verbal rather than concrete gratitude buffered the expression of hedonistic wishes. Finally, heteronomy was associated with the expression of verbal rather than concrete gratitude for Hispanics and Brazilians in their home country, suggesting a link between valuing to follow societal norms and expressing thanks verbally for those groups. In conclusion, this study advances research on gratitude by considering it as a moral virtue rather than simple appreciation. It also contributes for the knowledge in this topic, given that it includes a diverse sample drawn both from the United States and a non-Western country. Overall, the present study showed both similarities and differences in parental values and children’s gratitude expressions and their relations with children’s values (hedonistic, self-, and social oriented).

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Cross-Cultural, Cultural values, Gratitude, Materialism, Moral virtue, Parental values
Gratitude $v Cross-cultural studies
Gratitude in children $v Cross-cultural studies
Parent and child $v Cross-cultural studies
Social values $v Cross-cultural studies

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