Building character strength: Using a Phenomenological approach to explore how children 4-8 years are taught gratitude in home and school settings among indigenous Kenyan Turkana and Ethiopian Amhara
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Project Duration
February 5 / 2024
- February 5 / 2026
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Pamela Wadende
Institution Kisii University

Although gratitude is recognized as a key virtue contributing to character strength, most studies on gratitude have been conducted with adults, rarely including children. Few studies have explored cross-cultural differences in understanding and expressing gratitude. Most research into the conceptualization, development, and function of gratitude has been conducted in western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) societies. There's a notable lack of research and policy focus on gratitude in Africa, and the scant research that has examined this virtue in children there was focused on adolescents rather than younger kids.

A project from a team led by Pamela Wadende at Kisii University seeks to explore the process of gratitude formation in the home and school environments among younger children in northern Kenya and northern Ethiopia.

The project team will focus on 4-8 year olds — the age that children typically transition from home to school in Kenya and Ethiopia. This transition is often disruptive to children in non-Western communities who have to engage in a new way of teaching and learning for the first time. It is important to investigate and document how teaching, learning, and expression of gratitude in this age group takes place at home and in school settings before further processes, such as measurement of virtue, can be conducted.

A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods will be utilized to carry out the project. These include focus group discussions, interviews, child behavior observation schedules, and standardized psychometric tests. Study participants will include parents, teachers, focal persons in local communities, and 200 children ages 4 and 8 years, as well as local education officers in Lokichogio, Kenya and Gondar, Ethiopia.

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