Grateful People Are Happier and Better Students Than Materialistic People

Possessing wealth, dominating others, and desiring fame are material values. Children develop their values by learning from adults. Materialism, an individualistic value, is harmful for the society and is a growing cause of concern. While many studies have been carried out on materialism, gratitude has recieved less attention from researchers. This study evaluated the effect of materialism and gratitude in adolescent schoolchildren. It found that gratitude is positively associated with higher academic performance, satisfaction in life, and social integration. Furthermore, students with higher gratitude are less likely to be envious or depressed.

Children form their attitudes and values based on inputs and influences from society. Exposure to materialistic individuals has a direct influence on children, encouraging them to acquire materialistic values. These values induce aspirations like the desire for wealth and fame. They promote greed for self-enhancement by seeking success and dominance over others. Materialism is related negatively with psychological well–being. Gratitude has the opposite effect. Teachers and parents are anxious about young people who seem to be more materialistic. This study evaluated values of materialism and gratitude, and their effect on the well–being of adolescents.

* The study involved 1,035 students from grades nine to 12 in a public high school in New York.
* Materialism was evaluated based on the Material Values Scale.  The scale ranged from “1” (strongly disagree) to “5” (strongly agree).
* Gratitude was tested using three questionnaires, the Gratitude Questionnaire, the Gratitude, Resentment, and Appreciation Test (GRAT), and the Gratitude Adjective Checklist.
* The academic achievement of the participants was determined by their grade point average (GPA) in examinations.
* Satisfaction with life, envy, level of depression, and social integration were also estimated using questionnaires.

* There was a negative association between materialism and gratitude.
* Materialism was associated with lower academic achievement (GPA), higher envy, lower satisfaction in life, lesser social integration, and high self-consciousness.
* Gratitude was moderately associated with higher GPA and lower self-consciousness. It was strongly associated with life satisfaction and social integration.
* Females had higher levels of gratitude and lower levels of materialism than males.
* Materialism and gratitude were unrelated to age or ethnicity.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The study was based on students belonging to affluent socioeconomic groups. The findings could be different in other socioeconomic classes, since the drive for material possessions might be different in such groups. The study was limited to one school and therefore, it may not represent a large population. The conclusions were obtained from self-reports that could be biased.

Grateful adolescents obtain higher grades. They also are more socially integrated, and have higher levels of satisfaction in life. Such grateful students are less envious and depressed than their counterparts who display more materialism. It is possible that materialism produces difficulty in establishing warm relationships. A sense of gratitude may help people learn to enjoy the present. It will help them to achieve freedom from regrets and anxieties. Gratitude teaches that happiness does not depend on material possession. It also helps to create a network of caring people and contacts. Thus, emphasizing gratitude rather than material gains as a sign of success is important for the well–being of adolescents.

For More Information:
Gratitude and the Reduced Costs of Materialism in Adolescents
Publication Journal: Journal of Happiness Studies, March 2010
By Jeffrey J Froh; Robert A Emmons, et al., The Department of Psychology, Hofstra University, New York and University of California, Davis, California

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