27 November 2019
Author: Kamran Khan - Doctorate in Educational Psychology (DEdPsy), Cardiff University, 2019
A literature review of kindness and gratitude interventions was conducted exploring whether they improve the well-being of adults and children. Very few empirical studies utilised child or adolescent participants, but those that did claimed to demonstrate a number of benefits for this type of intervention, including increased levels of well-being, student popularity and pro-social behaviour.
The review identified a number of methodological weaknesses in available studies, which undermined the claims made for the effectiveness of kindness and gratitude interventions with children. The review also identified a number of measures to improve the research design employed in past studies e.g. use of a non-neutral control condition to reduce expectancy effects.
Based on the review, a small-scale, mixed-methods research study was designed, which aimed to explore the effectiveness of a kindness and gratitude intervention.
Employing a repeated measures, waiting-list control design, the experimental study was conducted in two classrooms in the U.K, with 9 and 10 year olds.
Each group participated in a six week kindness and gratitude intervention, for an hour each week.
The intervention emphasised and encouraged the performance of kind and grateful activities outside the workshops.
No consistent pattern of improvements based on self-report data was found for the child participants in measures of subjective well-being, self-esteem, or popularity, although small increases in kindness and prosocial behaviour were found in one school only, post-intervention. In spite of this, much of the qualitative information provided by the teachers, parents and children involved suggested they valued the intervention and thought it was effective at improving relationships, self-regulation skills and increasing kindness.
This study failed to substantiate the findings of past research, which claimed a link between intentional prosocial activities, popularity and improved levels of well-being in children. A number of recommendations have been made for future research in this area.