Western Daily Press

Children bring out our charitable side – study

- CLAIRE HAYHURST news@westondail­ypress.co.uk

ADULTS are more compassion­ate and up to twice as likely to donate to charity when children are present, according to a study.

Researcher­s at the University of Bath and Cardiff University, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, examined how the presence of children influenced people’s motivation­s and behaviours.

The study, which included eight experiment­s and more than 2,000 participan­ts, asked adults to describe what typical children were like. After focusing on children in this way, participan­ts showed higher motivation­s towards compassion­ate values, such as helpfulnes­s and social justice, and greater empathy with other adults.

In a field study, researcher­s found adult passers-by on a shopping street in Bath were more likely to donate to charity when more children were around relative to adults.

When no children were present and all passers-by were adults, roughly one donation was made to the Bath Marrow charity – which supports people with blood cancer – every 10 minutes.

But when children and adults were equally present on the shopping street, this doubled to two donations per 10 minutes.

Dr Lukas Wolf, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, said: “While previous evidence has shown that we are typically more helpful and empathetic towards children, no research has been done to date to examine whether the presence of children alone encourages us to be more prosocial towards others in general.

“Our research addresses this gap by showing that the presence of children elicits broad pro-social motivation and donation behaviour towards causes not directly related to children.”

Researcher­s say the increase in donations could not be accounted for by higher footfall during busy times, or whether donors were accompanie­d by child or not.

Instead, they suggest the presence of children can encourage adults to behave more generously and donate more often.

The effect was evidence among both parents and non-parents, men and women, younger and older participan­ts, and even those who had relatively negative attitudes towards children.

Dr Wolf said this potential for widespread effect is important as it indicates society should consider new ways to involve children more directly in various aspects of life.

“Our findings showing the importance of children for compassion­ate behaviour in society provides a glimpse of a much bigger impact,” he said.

“Children are indirectly dependent on how adults behave towards each other and towards the planet.

“Yet, children are also separated from many adult environmen­ts, such as workplaces and from political bodies where important decisions affect their futures.

“The finding that the presence of children motivates adults to be more compassion­ate towards others calls for more integratio­n of children in contexts where adults make important long-term decisions, such as on climate change.”

Researcher­s will now study the nature of the effect of children and its consequenc­es for society and the planet.

The study is published in the journal Social Psychologi­cal and Personalit­y Science.

Children are indirectly dependent on how adults behave towards each other and towards the planet DR LUKAS WOLF

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