The Benefits of Childrenā€™s Gratitude: Identifying Mediators and Designing a New Measure

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Sophie Smith
Submitted: October 2021


School-based gratitude interventions show evidence of enhancing student well-being but there is limited research suggesting how gratitude increases well-being. There is also the need for a suitable tool to measure childrenā€™s gratitude and evaluate the impact of gratitude interventions. The researcher sought to address these literature gaps. A systematic literature review was used to address the question ā€˜which variables mediate the association between young peopleā€™s gratitude and well-being?ā€™. Stronger evidence was found for cognitive and social resources as mediators, compared to mediators related to affect. A lack of experimental and longitudinal studies in the current evidence base was identified, highlighting avenues for future research.

In an empirical study, the researcher designed and screened a new questionnaire of childrenā€™s gratitude, the Questionnaire of Appreciation in Youth (QUAY). Items were developed using the literature to identify a comprehensive definition of gratitude and its key features, and through discussion with the research supervisors who have extensive experience of studying gratitude. The initial items were screened in a focus group with three children aged eight to nine. Exploratory factor analysis was then conducted with responses from 107 children aged eight to 10. This led to the development of an 11-item scale with good reliability and convergent validity with an existing measure of gratitude, the GQ-6. A three-factor structure was retained, with subscales addressing gratitude, appreciation, and sense of privilege. Limitations include the lack of a more diverse sample, the absence of reverse-scored items, positive skew in responses, and the need to establish discriminant validity. Implications include new insights into the structure of childrenā€™s gratitude, providing a working tool which could be further developed in order to measure childrenā€™s gratitude more effectively.

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Sense of school belonging: How can schools make a difference?

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Ashleigh Shuttleworth
Submitted: June 2018


The review investigated what school based interventions currently exist for supporting pupils sense of school belonging (SoSB). The search yielded 20 articles to be included in the review, and from these studies, 21 different intervention programmes were identified. Whilst all interventions aimed to increase SoSB, they were variable in many other aspects. To support synthesis of results, interventions were categorised as universal or targeted programmes and further divided based on common themes. Twelve studies reported a positive and significant effect of experimental condition on SoSB scores and one study reported a negative effect of experimental condition. Results support the notion that SoSB is malleable and can be enhanced through intervention support. All studies appear to incorporate aspects of teacher support and/ or personal characteristics, identified as having the largest effects with SoSB within Allen and colleaguesā€™ meta-analysis (2016). In addition, the data presents a trend towards targeted interventions being more effective than universal interventions, presenting particularly positive effects of SoSB for ā€˜atriskā€™ students. Implications are discussed in regards to the utility and effectiveness of having SoSB interventions being led by members of the school community, and in regards to the potential negative effect of peer contagion when running a group intervention with ā€˜at-riskā€™ youth.

The empirical paper examined the effectiveness of two experimental school-based diary conditions (gratitude diary and appreciation diary) on the promotion of SoSB and positive affect (PA), in comparison to a control condition (event diary). Participants aged 7 to 11 years (M = 8.76) were recruited from five primary schools in the South of England (N = 287). The intervention was carried out as a class, with pupils randomly allocated to either the gratitude, appreciation or event diary condition. Participants completed the diaries daily for three weeks, leading to 15 possible diary entries. Measures of gratitude, SoSB and PA were obtained at pre-intervention, postintervention and at a three-week follow-up, in addition to a pre-intervention measure of nostalgia proneness. Findings revealed that the intervention had been unsuccessful in manipulating gratitude, and ANOVAs for SoSB and PA revealed no significant effect of condition. However, a moderate positive correlation between gratitude, SoSB and PA change scores was noted, suggesting the existence of a relationship between change in gratitude and change in SoSB and PA. Possible explanations for the lack of condition effect in the current study are presented, in addition to limitations of the study in regards to the validity of the gratitude measures used and fidelity to intervention conditions.

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Could sharing gratitude on Facebook improve the well-being of young people?

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Rebecca Horner
Submitted: June 2016


The first chapter presents a systematic review of the literature around expressing gratitude and Facebook use and the impact of these behaviours on the well-being of young people. Studies were included if they evaluated the effects of Facebook use, keeping a gratitude log or sharing gratitude (online or otherwise) on measures of well-being. The review searched three electronic databases for peer-reviewed journal articles from 1995 onwards. No reports were found concerning the specific intervention of sharing of gratitude on Facebook. A total of seven Facebook interventions and 14 gratitude interventions were included. The analysis of these 21 interventions showed that overall, Facebook usage appears to have a negative impact on participantsā€™ well-being whilst gratitude interventions appear to have a positive impact on well-being. Based on these findings it is concluded that now is a good time to begin a new program of research exploring effect of sharing gratitude on Facebook.

The empirical paper examined the effectiveness of a Facebook based gratitude intervention to promote well-being in young people aged 16-18 (N = 70). Participants completed online questionnaire measures pre and post intervention as well as at a six-week follow up. Participants posted grateful or neutral learning status update to Facebook daily for ten consecutive college days. ANOVAs revealed no significant effect of condition. Moderation analysis found that the intervention has a positive impact on well-being but only for individuals who perceived peer reactions to be positive. This tentatively suggests that simply expressing gratefulness is not enough to boost well-being, expressed gratitude needs to be positively acknowledged by others. The findings extend the evidence base in the fields of post-16 well-being, Facebook use and gratitude sharing.

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

Assignment type:Ā Thesis
Author:Ā Tara Diebel
Submitted:Ā 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 interventionā€™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 interventionā€™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.

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Establishing the effectiveness of a gratitude diary intervention on childrenā€™s sense of school belonging (2016)

Assignment type: Research Project (Applied Research Project, Year 1)
Authors: Tara Diebel, Colin Woodcock, Claire Cooper & Catherine Brignell
Submitted: 2011

Aim: The promotion of wellbeing in schools using evidence-based interventions from the field of Positive Psychology is a growing area of interest. These interventions are based on the principle that sustainable changes in wellbeing can be achieved through regularly engaging in simple and intentional activities. This study examines the effectiveness of a school-based gratitude diary intervention to promote school belonging for primary school aged pupils (age range 7-11 years). Continue reading