Gratitude has gained substantial interest in popular culture: Websites suggest keeping a gratitude journal, counting one’s blessings, and games to encourage children to express their thanks. Social psychologists have become more interested in the topic over the past quarter century, and research with individuals from 10 to 90 years of age has revealed that those who score higher on measures of gratitude also score higher on measures of well-being.

Almost none of this research has been developmental, however, and there is little consistency in what is understood as gratitude—for example, treated as a positive emotion, an affective response to a wide variety of stimuli (seeing a beautiful scene, appreciating good health, receiving help or a gift, etc.), a moral sentiment, and a moral virtue. Gratitude is ...

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