The effectiveness of a gratitude diary intervention on primary school children’s sense of school belonging

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Tara Diebel
Submitted: June 2014


The review evaluated whether gratitude interventions can improve well-being among adults and children. A systematic search of the literature yielded 31 studies. The majority of studies used adult participants, with only four published studies using child or adolescent participants. It was found that gratitude interventions elicited desirable outcomes, such as increases in positive emotions, decreases in negative emotions and improvements in life satisfaction. The review highlights many methodological limitations within the literature, which makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the intervention to promote well-being. Emerging evidence suggests that factors such as recruitment strategy, participant motivation and preference for intervention can influence the intervention’s effectiveness. Finally, the literature is starting to consider how participant characteristics can influence the efficacy of gratitude interventions.

The empirical paper has examined the effectiveness of a school-based gratitude diary intervention to promote school belonging for primary school aged children (M = 9.4, SD = 0.47). The intervention took place across three primary schools for two weeks and involved participants writing a diary about things that they were either grateful for in school that day or about neutral school events. Participants who completed the gratitude intervention demonstrated a trend towards an increased feeling of belonging towards school. Supplementary analysis provided a model, which aimed to increase understanding of the process that leads to changes in school belonging, as well as the boundary conditions that influenced this process. It was found that nostalgia proneness had a significant impact both at a direct level; influencing the intervention’s impact on sense of belonging, but also at an indirect level through changes in levels of felt gratitude towards school. There was no effect of baseline affective empathy at any stage of the analysis. The findings extend the evidence base concerning the use of gratitude interventions with children and the efficacy of these interventions to build social resources. It also makes a novel connection between nostalgia proneness and gratitude.

Download thesis (PDF) via ePrints Soton