Emotional states in self and others as motives for helping in ten-year-old children

M. Meerum Terwogt

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The participants were 140 children aged 10 years who were asked to imagine themselves as the protagonist in a helping scenario. The first part of the scenario describes an event which is designed to create a happy, angry or emotionally neutral mood state in the protagonist. In the second part the protagonist meets a sad or fearful friend in need. It was found that girls were inclined to help their friends more often than boys were. Boys expressed an intention to help fearful friends less often than sad friends and, in both sexes, the tendency to help diminished after a preceding angry episode. In justifying their answers the participants referred to their friend's emotional state in about 50% of the cases and to their own emotional state in about 25% of cases. References to the protagonist's angry mood state increased the probability that help was denied. Mentioning a friend's sad state almost exclusively was given as a reason for helping. In contrast, a friend's fearful behaviour was not only mentioned as a reason for providing help but was also given as a reason for withholding help, especially among boys. Gender and emotion-related discrepancies are discussed in terms of normative ideas about emotion management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-147
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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