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Date: Mar 10, 2010
Grateful teens report better grades and family relationships than less thankful peers, new study by Hofstra professor finds
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY - Grateful high school students have higher grade point averages, are more satisfied with their lives and have better friendships and family relationships than their less thankful peers, according to a new study authored by a Hofstra psychology professor.
The study, conducted in a Long Island, N.Y. high school by Jeffrey Froh, assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra, surveyed 1,035 students between the ages of 14 and 19, to measure how directly gratitude and materialism predict positive and negative outcomes. The research, slated for publication later this year in the Journal of Happiness Studies, and builds on several previous studies Froh led that examine the impact of gratitude on youth behavior.
The most recent findings indicate that the grateful students reported having higher grades, more life satisfaction, better social integration and were less envious and depressed than their peers who reported being less thankful. Perhaps even more important, Froh said, gratitude was generally a stronger predictor of all the outcomes measured than was materialism. In other words, gratitude was found to have a more powerful impact on teenagers' lives than materialism.
"The big takeaway is that gratitude was related to all these good things, even after controlling for materialism and demographic factors such as age and gender," Froh said. "Materialistic youth seem to be languishing while grateful youth seem to be flourishing. High school is such a period of dynamic change -- with everything going on with teenagers socially and physically - that cultivating a sense of gratitude might help them navigate life better."
The survey, conducted in 2007, measured students' materialism and gratitude by asking them how much they agreed or disagreed with several statements, including "I'd be happier if I could afford to buy more things", "I have all the things I really need to enjoy life" , "Oftentimes, I have been overwhelmed at the beauty of nature", and :"If I had to list everything that I felt thankful for, it would be a very long list".
Earlier, Dr. Froh conducted research on gratitude with early adolescents that produced similar results. In a study published in 2008, he found middle-schoolers who counted their blessings reported higher levels of well-being than those who focused on hassles, and that the benefits are lasting. Those who counted their blessings continued to report better school experiences three weeks after the initial contact, that study found. In another study published in 2009, Froh also found that youth with low positive emotions who delivered a thank-you letter face-to-face reported more gratitude and positive feelings both immediately afterwards and two months later.
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