When it is better to give than to receive: Children's giving and happiness

Anne A. Fast, Sanjana Ravi, Kristina R. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Humans experience emotional benefits from engaging in prosocial behavior. The current work investigates factors that influence the experience of happiness from giving to others in early childhood. In three studies with 5-year-olds (N = 144), we find that young children are happier from giving resources to others than from receiving resources for themselves (Study 1) and investigate when children are most happy from giving. In Study 2, children were happier when they could see the beneficiary's positive reaction, suggesting that empathizing with the beneficiary's positive emotion contributes to happiness (consistent with the concept of vicarious-joy). In Study 3, children were happier after they gave resources than when they watched someone else give resources, indicating that being responsible for prosocial action contributes to children's happiness (consistent with the concept of warm-glow). These results provide a critical step toward understanding when children experience happiness from giving and a foundation for investigating happiness as a mechanism supporting early prosociality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)990-1008
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • childhood
  • emotional reward
  • giving
  • happiness
  • prosocial behavior


Dive into the research topics of 'When it is better to give than to receive: Children's giving and happiness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this