115 Children & Generosity

Based on research by Rushton, J.. Written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Does your child ever fight or complain about having to share something with their siblings or friends?  Do you ever wonder how to encourage generous behavior among your children?

Researcher J. Rushton, from the University of London, examined the behavior of 140 children, ages 7 to 11 years old to figure out the most effective way to elicit generosity in kids.  He evaluated the immediate and long-term effects of modeling the act of sharing, and preaching about the importance of sharing.  The children exposed to a person modeling generous behavior by donating money to a charity, were more likely to donate themselves.  Preaching and explaining to the child the importance of donating money was not as effective.  Modeling the behavior of sharing had a positive impact on the children’s own generosity both immediately following their interaction with the model, and six weeks after.

This study is one of many that demonstrates the impact that modeling has on children and other adults too!  Although researchers have studied how children pick up negative habits from observing others, it is equally important to recognize the benefits of modeling good behaviors for our children and our friends.  So…what kind of behavior are you modeling?


Rushton, J. P. (1975). Generosity in children: Immediate and long-term effects of modeling, preaching, and moral judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31(3), 459.

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