A grateful heart: parents’ reflections on gratitude and its development in their children.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sara Ann Etz Mendonca (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Jonathan Tudge

Abstract: Too much focus has been placed on positive psychology’s view of gratitude, which is broad in scope but operationalized often merely as a positive emotion. I argue that gratitude should be defined as a virtue, as it has been conceptualized by a multitude of philosophers, psychologists, and other scholars who have studied it (Annas, 2011; Baumgarten-Tramer, 1938; Emmons, 2009; Tudge, Freitas, & O’Brien, 2015). As a virtue, gratitude is experienced when (a) a benefactor purposefully and willingly gives a benefit to the beneficiary, and the beneficiary (b) recognizes the intentionality of the benefactor and feels good about it, (d) freely reciprocates based on the benefactor’s needs and wants, if and when the opportunity presents itself, and (e) is consistent in this type of behavioral response (Tudge et al., 2015). The goals of the present research were, in a diverse sample: (1) to investigate whether parents place importance on gratitude for their children; (2) to examine whether parents’ experiences of gratitude affect their thoughts and actions regarding their children’s gratitude; and (3) and to investigate parenting strategies to foster and encourage gratitude, including exploring potential differences based on social class, society, and racial/ethnic group membership. Drawing from semi-structured interviews conducted in the United States and China with parents of children aged 7 to 14, representing seven distinct cultural groups, 100 interviews were coded using directed content analysis based on a triadic coding scheme. A priori codes were established based on literature and new codes were determined based on parent responses. Through parents’ own words, it became apparent that gratitude is significant in all of the cultures represented. The close ties that gratitude helped foster and solidify among family, friends and the community were clear based on the examples given by parents of being helped by benefactors. The need to encourage gratitude in children was evident when parents spoke of children who were not able to truly understand gratitude and who did not demonstrate it enough. Children’s young age was a key factor limiting their understanding of gratitude, regardless of whether the children were in middle childhood or adolescence. Parents also spoke of children who were shy as being less inclined to express gratitude and those who were out-going as being more likely to express gratitude. Strategies parents used to promote gratitude were quite similar such as speaking to children about gratitude or reminding them to express it appropriately Cultural differences were found as well. Gratitude was conceptualized differently depending on the language and cultural group. In this study when examining transcripts from Brazilian or Mexican immigrants in Portuguese or Spanish or the Chinese parents’ transcripts translated into English from Mandarin, special care was taken in interpretation of the interviews. Further, parents varied in why they felt that their children should feel gratitude depending on whether parents were middle-class or working-class. Overall, the present study showed both similarities and differences among the various cultural groups in parents’ thoughts about and experiences of gratitude and how they relate to their opinions of and encouraging gratitude in their children.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Appreciation, Child Development, Cultural differences, Family interaction, Grateful, Gratitude
Gratitude in children $v Cross-cultural studies
Moral development $v Cross-cultural studies
Child development $v Cross-cultural studies
Parental influences $v Cross-cultural studies
Parent and child $v Cross-cultural studies

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