Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude

 

The Youth Gratitude Project

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Research convincingly shows that grateful youth, compared to their less grateful counterparts, are happier, more satisfied with their lives, friends, family, neighborhood, and selves. They also report more hope, engagement with their hobbies, higher GPAs, and less envy, depression, and materialism.

The Youth Gratitude Project (YGP) seeks to broadly understand key determinants of gratitude, its assessment, and its benefits and promotion early on in human development.

Even though gratitude has long been considered a powerful ingredient of health and well-being for both individuals and societies, no systematic attempt has ever been made to understand these four areas related to gratitude’s origins. This is a gap that seriously hampers progress in the science of gratitude.

With the empirical picture of gratitude among adults solidly established, the YPG is jumpstarting the science of gratitude among children and adolescents so that the full picture of this important virtue can emerge. Thus, our chief aim is to establish the scientific foundation for gratitude among youth. The YGP consists of four major components.

  • Create gratitude scales for children and adolescents: Preliminary evidence suggests that gratitude may have similar functions for youth as it does for adults. But a basic limitation of this research is that adult gratitude scales were used. Thus, one of our main goals is to create two gratitude scales, one for children and one for adolescents, and a parental report scale for children.
  • Examine the development of gratitude in teens: Our second goal is to examine psychological and social determinants of gratitude during early and late adolescence. Here we will analyze data from our four-year longitudinal study conducted with over 400 teens. Our measures extend beyond well-being and include constructs related to thriving (such as intentional self-regulation, self-control, social support, self-efficacy, prosocial and antisocial behavior, community involvement, health behaviors, religiosity or spirituality, and participation in extra-curricular activities).
  • Examine the role of parental and social determinants of youth gratitude: No studies we know of have linked specific parenting practices to gratitude in children and adolescents. So we are currently collecting data from parent-child dyads to examine how much parents’ modeling, valuing, and reinforcement of gratitude expression in their children (ages 7-18) are related with gratitude in youth. In addition, we are examining the roles of parent-child attachment, self-competence, and friendship quality as determinants.
  • Conduct cross-cultural research on a school-based gratitude curriculum: We have created a school-based curriculum that teaches children how to think gratefully. Results from our pilot studies show that students who received our gratitude curriculum, compared to controls, reported gains in grateful thinking, gratitude and positive affect up to five months later. We are now initiating planning with colleagues in the U.S. and Australia to refine the curriculum and we will soon be testing it in India, Great Britain, Singapore, and Japan to examine ways to promote gratitude and well-being across these cultures.

The YGP is part of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center’s Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. Researchers at three universities run the project:

  • Jeffrey J. Froh, Psy.D. is a school psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University. He is past associate editor for The Journal of Positive Psychology and co-editor of Activities for Teaching Positive Psychology: A Guide for Instructors. His research has appeared in mainstream media such as the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, and Better Homes and Gardens.
  • Giacomo Bono, Ph.D. is adjunct professor at California State University Dominguez Hills. He has a PhD. in Social Psychology from Claremont Graduate University and has extensive training and work experience involving research in health, positive psychology, youth development, and school and community programs for youth and families. With approximately twenty articles and chapters published, his research has appeared on U.S. News and World Report, Youth Radio, and in the Huffington Post.
  • Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. is professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. He is past president of the American Psychological Association’s Division 36, The Psychology of Religion. Emmons is founding editor and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Youth & Gratitude Resources

Want to know more about youth and the science of gratitude? Please see these resources:

 

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How Gratitude Can Improve Students and Schools: Educating Hearts and Minds in the 21st Century
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