Early Sympathy and Social Acceptance Predict the Development of Sharing in Children

Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 12/2012; 7(12):e52017. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052017
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Sharing is a fascinating activity of the human species and an important basis for the development of fairness, care, and cooperation in human social interaction. Economic research has proposed that sharing, or the willingness to sacrifice own resources for others, has its roots in social emotions such as sympathy. However, only few cross-sectional experiments have investigated children's other-regarding preferences, and the question how social-emotional skills influence the willingness to share valuable resources has not been tested. In the present longitudinal-experimental study, a sample of 175 6-year-old children, their primary caregivers, and their teachers is examined over a 3-year period of time. Data are analyzed by means of growth curve modeling. The findings show that sharing valuable resources strongly increases in children from 6 to 9 years of age. Increases in sharing behavior are associated with the early-developing ability to sympathize with anonymous others. Sharing at 7 years of age is predicted by feelings of social acceptance at 6 years of age. These findings hold after controlling for children's IQ and SES. Girls share more equally than boys at 6 and 7 years of age, however, this gender difference disappears at the age of 9 years. These results indicate that human sharing strongly increases in middle childhood and, that this increase is associated with sympathy towards anonymous others and with feelings of social acceptance. Additionally, sharing develops earlier in girls than in boys. This developmental perspective contributes to new evidence on change in sharing and its social-emotional roots. A better understanding of the factors underlying differences in the development of sharing and pro-social orientations should also provide insights into the development of atypical, anti-social orientations which exhibit social-emotional differences such as aggression and bullying behavior.

Download full-text


Available from: Tina Malti, Sep 03, 2015
1 Follower
  • Source
    • "Whereas 3-year-old children show no spontaneously occurring sympathy with materially needy others (or only after it was externally cued by emotional signals; Svetlova, 2013), 5-year-old children might be better able to put themselves into the shoes of the needy recipient and, as a consequence, showed more sympathy , and thus more prosocial behavior, toward the needy agent; indicating an abstract understanding that poor agents deserve more resources than rich agents. This explanation might be supported by recent findings that early sympathy predicts the development of sharing behavior (Malti et al., 2012) and that mood effects fairness decisions in dictator games (Forgas and Tan, 2013). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Recent studies have provided evidence that young children already engage in sharing behavior. The underlying social‐cognitive mechanisms, however, are still under debate. In particular, it is unclear whether or not young children’s sharing is motivated by an appreciation of others’ wealth. Manipulating the material needs of recipients in a sharing task (Experiment 1) and a resource allocation task (Experiment 2), we show that 5‐ but not 3‐year‐old children share more with poor than wealthy individuals. The 3-year-old children even showed a tendency to behave less selfishly towards the rich, yet not the poor recipient. This suggests that very early instances of sharing behavior are not motivated by a consideration of others’ material needs. Moreover, the results show that 5-year-old children were rather inclined to give more to the poor individual than distributing the resources equally, demonstrating that their wish to support the poor overruled the otherwise very prominent inclination to share resources equally. This indicates that charity has strong developmental roots in preschool children.
    Frontiers in Psychology 06/2014; 5. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00344 · 2.80 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "It takes many forms, from the reciprocal sharing of toys with friends in preschool, to the anonymous donation of money to a charity, to our society's centralized division and allocation of resources as part of the social welfare system. Because of its roots in early childhood and its importance to large-scale fairness and care (Malti et al., 2012), a rich body of research in psychology has focused on understanding the development and motivation of children's giving behaviors (Eisenberg et al., 2014). It is often the case, however , that little distinction is drawn between different subtypes of giving. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study investigated the role of moral reasoning and moral emotions (i.e., sympathy and guilt) in the development of young children's donating behavior (N = 160 4- and 8-year-old children). Donating was measured through children's allocation of resources (i.e., stickers) to needy peers and was framed as a donation to "World Vision." Children's sympathy was measured with both self- and primary caregiver-reports and participants reported their anticipation of guilt feelings following actions that violated prosocial moral norms, specifically the failure to help or share. Participants also provided justifications for their anticipated emotions, which were coded as representing moral or non-moral reasoning processes. Children's moral reasoning emerged as a significant predictor of donating behavior. In addition, results demonstrated significant developmental and gender effects, with 8-year-olds donating significantly more than 4-year-olds and 4-year-old girls making higher value donations than boys of the same age. We discuss donation behaviors within the broader context of giving and highlight the moral developmental antecedents of giving behaviors in childhood.
    Frontiers in Psychology 05/2014; 5:458. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00458 · 2.80 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "In addition, the exploration of standard and alternative MSM motivational pathways across contexts extends earlier research on developing motivation and skills that also consider accumulative models in development (e.g., Aunola et al. 2002; Prior 1999). The person-oriented and variable-oriented approaches to understanding children’s developing motivations extend findings in large-scales studies with adolescents, and also correlation and experimental studies with children in specific fields (e.g., Aunola et al. 2002; Bornholt et al. 2005; Chapman et al. 2000; Malti et al. 2009; Martin 2007; Prior 1999; Retelsdorf et al. 2011). The major contribution of this project is to contextualise MSM Theory of developing motivations, by detailed examinations of the common and distinct features of children’s motivations in the contexts of everyday activities. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Motivational Spiral Models (MSM) show links over time among self concepts, feelings, strategies, skills and participation in everyday activities. In theory, MSM have many common features, with distinct features in particular contexts. This project examined children's motivation to participate in literacy (MSM-L), social (MSM-S) and physical activities (MSM-P). The participants in Study 1 (N = 32) were 9 to 11 years old, and in Study 2 (N = 73) were 4 to 12 year old children. Locations were close to the Australian national average in socio-economic indicators, and initial screening showed these were representative samples. Analyses used variable-oriented correlational models as well as person-oriented clusters that suggest the standard and alternative motivational pathways. The results of Study 1 suggested bi-directional links between children's self concepts and participation in activities. Study 2 identified the common features as: openness and stability over time; and self concepts that motivate and justify participation in activities. Distinct features of MSM-L show the few negative feelings that may limit reading. In MSM-S, self concepts support the positive feelings, and in MSM-P, positive feelings support the task strategies. In conclusion, findings support MSM theory with common features based on self concepts and distinct features of developing motivations in particular contexts. MSM provide a sound base for future research in the contexts of everyday activities for children. In addition, there are practical applications of the findings to prevention, monitoring and intervention programmes.
    SpringerPlus 10/2013; 2:565. DOI:10.1186/2193-1801-2-565
Show more