418 Toddlers Giving & Happiness

Research by Aknins, L. B., Hamlin, J. K., Dunn, E. W. (2012).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, M.S

Have you ever told a child to share their toys? How does sharing affect a child’s emotions? Often, we adults feel better after engaging in a behavior beneficial to others. Do children feel similarly? Psychologists examined whether children emotionally benefit from sharing with other children.

Researchers in a five-phase study compared responses of twenty children under 2 years-old when playing with a toy, sharing a toy, being introduced to puppets, being given 8 treats, watching a puppet given a treat, and finding a treat. Researchers also asked the toddlers to give a treat to each puppet present. Coders rated the children’s “happiness” responses at each phase.

Results? Toddlers showed more happiness when they gave their treats to the puppets, compared with receiving the treats. They showed greater satisfaction when they gave their own treats to the puppets, even more than when they found a treat.

Promote sharing with your toddlers! This study indicates that children are happier when they can give others what they have—their resources. Make sure your children understand sharing at a young age! Not only will your children help others, they will likely get along better with them plus they will increase their own happiness!


Aknins, L. B., Hamlin, J. K., Dunn, E. W. (2012). Giving leads to happiness in young children. PLoS ONE, 7(6), 1-4

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