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Children’s and Adolescents’ Gratitude Expression and its Association with their Greatest Wishes across Ethnic Groups in the United States

  • Elisa A. Merçon-VargasEmail author
  • Jonathan R. H. Tudge
Article
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Abstract

Gratitude, as a moral virtue, emphasizes reciprocity and interpersonal relations; its development involves cognitive abilities, moral understandings, and socially learned expectations. This paper aimed to explore ethnic variation in the expression of gratitude among 595 children and adolescents aged 7 to 14 (mean age = 9.71, SD = 2.17) in the United States (European Americans, Brazilians, Hispanics, and African Americans) and the association between gratitude and participants’ wishes and age. Results indicated that Brazilians and Hispanics were more likely to use verbal (e.g., “thank you”) than concrete gratitude (reciprocation without considering the benefactor’s needs) than were African Americans. Older participants were less likely to express concrete than verbal and connective gratitude (reciprocation considering the benefactor’s needs). Hedonistic wishes were linked to a greater likelihood of expressing verbal than connective gratitude for Brazilians compared to Hispanics. Self-oriented wishes were linked to a greater likelihood of expressing connective than verbal gratitude for Brazilians and African Americans compared to Hispanics. African Americans were less likely to express verbal than concrete gratitude when expressing self-oriented wishes than were Hispanics. This study provides evidence of developmental and cultural aspects of gratitude expression and calls attention to within-society variability.

Keywords

Gratitude Child and adolescent development Ethnicity Moral development 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the John Templeton Foundation (Grant 43510 to Jonathan R. H. Tudge, PI) and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (Capes; BEX 0959/12-0 to Elisa A. Merçon-Vargas).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (having received IRB approval from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants and their parents included in the study.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Graduate Program in PsychologyUniversidade Federal do Espírito SantoVitóriaBrazil
  2. 2.University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA

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