Cultivating prosocial behaviors is an important educational goal. A recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology examined whether prosocial behaviors were also rewarding for young children.
The participating children were given a sharing, an instrumental helping task, and an empathic helping task. Their prosocial behaviors and happiness levels during and after the tasks were coded and compared. The study was conducted using a Dutch cohort and a Chinese cohort of young children to examine whether cultural differences exist. In total, there were 122 Dutch toddlers of which 101 participated again one year later, and 91 Chinese preschoolers involved in the study.
The following results were found consistent across both Chinese and Dutch children:
- Compared with receiving treats, children became happier after sharing.
- Children also became happier after performing instrumental helping behaviors.
- Whether children were being thanked after they helped others did not change their happiness levels.
The authors concluded that prosocial behaviors were emotionally rewarding for Dutch and Chinese young children. They recommend further study to examine the effects across ages and contexts.
Source (Open Access): Song, Y., Broekhuizen, M. L., & Dubas, J. S. (2020). Happy little benefactor: Prosocial behaviors promote happiness in young children from two cultures. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1398. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01398