Gratitude in Life-span Development: An Overview of Comparative Studies between Different Age Groups

Main Article Content

Takashi Naito
Naoko Washizu


The purpose of the current study is to examine and interpret findings on gratitude in the context of different stages of human development. A hypothetical framework of life span development was created for reviewing and interpreting the results of the studies conducted between 1900 to 2018. The topics that we discussed in the developmental phases were about gratitude routines, gratitude in exploring identity, and gratitude for life integrity, which were supposed to be developmental tasks in childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age respectively. These developmental tasks need to be achieved or resolved, for the promoting adaptation in their lives, and for successive development in the life cycles. We reviewed the studies that have compared gratitude between different age groups under these themes. In addition, some studies that explored age-specific phenomena of gratitude were reviewed for supplementary purposes. This review shows that there exist both qualitative and quantitative changes of gratitude in a life span, and in general, confirms the utility and the need to interpret findings on gratitude in the context of each developmental phase, which include cognitive resources, modes of social interactions, developmental tasks and so on. Furthermore, the interpretation in developmental contexts could lead to relevant educational and clinical treatments for each developmental phase.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Naito, T., & Washizu, N. (2019). Gratitude in Life-span Development: An Overview of Comparative Studies between Different Age Groups. The Journal of Behavioral Science, 14(2), 80–93. Retrieved from
Academic Article
Author Biographies

Takashi Naito, Tokyo Adachi learning center, The Open University of Japan

Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University, Japan.

Visiting Professor, Tokyo Adachi learning center, The Open University of Japan, Japan.

Naoko Washizu, Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Ochanomizu University

PhD. student at Division of Human Developmental Sciences, Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Ochanomizu University, Tokyo, Japan.


Allemand, M., & Hill, P. L. (2016). Gratitude from early adulthood to old age. Journal of personality, 84(1), 21-35.

Baumgarten-Tramer, F. (1938). Gratefulness" in children and young people. The Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology, 53(1), 53-66.

Chopik, W. J., Newton, N. J., Ryan, L. H., Kashdan, T. B., & Jarden, A. J. (2017). Gratitude across the life span: Age differences and links to subjective well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 14(3), 292-302.

Davis, D. E., Choe, E., Meyers, J., Wade, N., Varjas, K., Gifford, A., . . . Worthington, E. L., Jr. (2016). Thankful for the little things: A meta-analysis of gratitude interventions. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(1), 20-31. cou0000107

DeCooke, P. A. (1992). Children's understanding as a feature of reciprocal help exchange between peer. Developmental Psychology, 28, 948-954. 948

Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. NY: Norton.

Erikson, E. H. (1958). Young Man Luther: A study in psychoanalysis and history. NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

Erikson, E. H. & Erikson, J. M. (1997). The life cycle completed, extended version. NY: Norton.

Freitas, L. B. D. L., Pieta, M. A. M., & Tudge, J. R. H. (2011). Beyond politeness: The expression of gratitude in children and adolescents. Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica, 24(4), 757-764.

Froh, J. J., Bono, G., & Emmons, R. (2010). Being grateful is beyond good manners: Gratitude and motivation to contribute to society among early adolescents. Motivation and Emotion, 34(2), 144-157.

Gabbard, G. O. (1994). Psychodynamic personality in clinical practice: The DSM-IV edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.

Graham, S. (1988). Children's developing understanding of the motivational role of affect: An attributional analysis. Cognitive Development, 3(1), 71-88. 0885-2014(88)90031-7

Gleason, J. B., & Weintraub, S. (1976). The acquisition of routines in child language. Language in Society, 5(02), 129-136.

Greif, E. B., & Gleason, J. B. (1980). Hi, thanks, and goodbye: More routine information. Language in Society, 9(2), 159-166.

Grossmann, I., Karasawa, M., Kan, C., & Kitayama, S. (2014). A cultural perspective on emotional experiences across the life span. Emotion, 14(4), 679-692. https://doi. org/10.1037/a0036041

Hirose, Y. & Honda, A. (2017, September 2-3). Kansha surukoto wa sinohuan o karukusuruka? [Does gratitude lessen death anxiety?]. In Proceedings of Social contribution of health psychology, and more challenges: 30th conference of the Association for Japanese Health Psychology (p. 89). Tokyo: Surugadai Campus, Meiji University.

Ikeda, Y. (2006). Seinenki ni okeru hahaoya ni taisuru kansha no sinrijoutai no bunseki [Analysis of gratitude toward one's mother: adolescents and young adults]. Japanese Journal of Educational Psychology, 54, 487-497.

Kant, I. (1797/1991). The metaphysics of morals. London: Cambridge University Press.

Kashdan, T. B., Mishra, A., Breen, W. E., & Froh, J. J. (2009). Gender differences in gratitude: Examining appraisals, narratives, the willingness to express emotions, and changes in psychological needs. Journal of Personality, 77, 691-730. 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00562.x

Killen, A., & Macaskill, A. (2015). Using a gratitude intervention to enhance well-being in older adults. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(4), 947-964. 1007/s10902-014-9542-3

Kohlberg, L. (1984). The psychology of moral development: Essays on moral development. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

Lau, R. W. L., & Cheng, S. (2011). Gratitude lessens death anxiety. European Journal of Ageing, 8(3),169-175.

Lapsley, D. K., & Stey, P. C. (2011). Narcissism. In R. Levesque (Ed.), Encyclopedia of adolescence (pp. 1835-1844). NY: Springer.

Leon, E. D., Liang, Y., Lee, S., Kim, S. A., & Kiang, L. (2018). The development of gratitude in South Korean youth. Cross-Cultural Research, 52(1), 87-101.

Liang, Y., & Kiang, L. (2018). Expressions of gratitude, wishes, and spending preferences among Chinese children and adolescents. Cross-Cultural Research, 52(1), 73-86.

Lopez, D. (2004). Buddhist Scriptures, London: Penguin.

Ma, L. K., Tunney, R. J., & Ferguson, E. (2017). Does gratitude enhance prosociality?: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 143(6), 601-635. 1037/ bul0000103

Martínez-Martí, M. L., & Ruch, W. (2014). Character strengths and well-being across the life span: data from a representative sample of German-speaking adults living in Switzerland. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 1-10.

Masui, Y., Nakagawa, T.,Gondo,Y.,Ogawa, M.,Ishioka, Y.,Tatsuhira,Y.,...Takahashi, R. (2013). Nihonban Rounentekichouetsu shitumonshi kaiteiban no datousei oyobi shinraisei no kentou [Validity and reliability of Japanese Gerotranscendence Scale Revised JGS-R)]. Japanese Journal of Gerontology, 35(1), 49-59.

Mendonça, S. E., Merçon-Vargas, E. A., Payir, A., & Tudge, J. R. (2018). The development of gratitude in seven societies: Cross-cultural highlights. Cross-Cultural Research, 52(1), 135-150.

McCullough, M. E., Kilpatrick, S. D., Emmons, R. A., & Larson, D. B. (2001). Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249-266.

McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(1), 112–127.

Naito, T., & Washizu, N. (2015). Note on cultural universals and variations of gratitude from an East Asian point of view. International Journal of Behavioral Science, 10(2), 1-8

Naito, T., Wangwan, J., & Tani, M. (2005). Gratitude in university students in Japan and Thailand. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 36(2), 247-263.

Nakayama, R. & Nakaya, M. (2006). Seinenki ni okeru jikoai no kouzou to hattatutekihenka no kentou [Developmental transformation of narcissism in adolescents]. Japanese Journal of Educational Psychology, 54(2), 188-198.

Mokrova, I. L., Merçon-Vargas, E. A., & Tudge, J. R. (2018). Wishes, gratitude, and spending preferences in Russian children. Cross-Cultural Research, 52(1), 102-116. https://

Nelson, S. K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2016). Gratitude. In Howard S. Friedman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Mental Health Vol. 2 (2nd ed., pp. 277-280), Waltham, MA: Academic Press.

O’Brien, L., Mendonça, S. E., & Price, U. S. (2018). The development of gratitude in the United States. Cross-Cultural Research, 52(1), 58-72. 1069397117737053

Palhares, F., Freitas, L. B., Merçon-Vargas, E. A., & Tudge, J. R. (2018). The development of gratitude in Brazilian children and adolescents. Cross-Cultural Research, 52(1), 31-43.

Payir, A., & Zeytinoglu, S. (2018). Children’s and adolescents’ expression of gratitude across societies: Findings from Turkey. Cross-Cultural Research, 52(1), 117-134. https://doi. org/10.1177/1069397117736733

Poelker, K. E., & Gibbons, J. L. (2018). The development of gratitude in Guatemalan children and adolescents. Cross-Cultural Research, 52(1), 44-57. 10.1177/1069397117736518

Singh, D. (2015). I've never thanked my parents for anything. Retrieved from

Smith, A. (1790/1976). Theory of moral sentiments (6th ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Solom, R., Watkins, P. C., McCurrach, D., & Scheibe, D. (2017). Thieves of thankfulness: Traits that inhibit gratitude. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(2), 120-129.

Sood, S., & Gupta, R. (2012). A study of gratitude and wellbeing among adolescents. Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 3(5), 35-38.

Tsang, J. A. (2006). Gratitude and prosocial behavior: An experimental test of gratitude. Cognition & Emotion, 20, 138-148.

Tornstam, L. (1989). Gero-transcendence: A reformulation of the disengagement theory. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 1(1), 55-63. BF03323876

Tornstam, L. (2011). Maturing into gerotranscendence. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 43(2),166-180.

Tudge, J. R., Freitas, L. B., & O'Brien, L. T. (2016). The virtue of gratitude: A developmental and cultural approach. Human Development, 58(4-5), 281-300.

Washizu, N., & Naito, T. (2015). The emotions sumanai, gratitude, and indebtedness, and their relations to interpersonal orientation and psychological well-being among Japanese university students. International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation, 4(3), 209-222.

Watkins, P. C. (2014). Gratitude and the good life. Dordrecht: Springer.

Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical psychology review, 30(7), 890-905.

Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Stewart, N., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). A social-cognitive model of trait and state levels of gratitude. Emotion, 8(2), 281-290.