Assessing Influences on Gratitude Experience: Age-Related Differences in How Gratitude is Understood and Experienced

Blaire Morgan*, Liz Gulliford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


As theoretical and empirical work on gratitude continues to thrive, especially in the fields of psychology, philosophy and education, there has been an increased interest in how this construct develops, as this volume attests. Indeed, the development of gratitude is a complicated issue, and that is because gratitude itself is complex and multifaceted; it comprises emotional, affective and behavioural components and requires cognitive reasoning to understand the intentions and motivations behind benefaction and any potential reciprocation (see Gulliford, Morgan, & Kristjánsson, 2013, for a review of gratitude’s many contours). It is largely agreed that gratitude is not inbuilt; instead it develops over time, as certain capacities become available and cognitive abilities mature. The idea that gratitude is learned and honed over time is particularly salient if it is viewed as a moral virtue (Carr, 2013; Tudge, Freitas, & O’Brien, 2015; Wellman, 1999). Virtues, like skills, require a great deal of practice and may not be achieved even in adulthood (Annas, 2011). We have argued elsewhere (Morgan & Gulliford, 2015; Morgan, Gulliford, & Carr, 2015) that gratitude, in an Aristotelian sense, requires the holder to have developed a finely tuned ability to understand when gratitude is called for based on the specific situation at hand; in addition, there are many elements to be considered, such as the intention and effort on behalf of the benefactor, the value of the benefit, the presence of conflicting emotions, and the role of duty (see also Gulliford & Morgan, 2016). Understanding the motivations behind a benefaction, and then knowing what the appropriate response is (including whether or how to reciprocate), therefore requires a great deal of cognitive effort and careful reasoning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDeveloping Gratitude in Children and Adolescents
EditorsJonathan Tudge, Lia Freitas
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)978-1-107-18272-1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2017


  • Gratitude
  • Developing gratitude
  • adolescents
  • children


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