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Being around kids makes adults more generous, study finds

Experts say this could extend beyond cash donations

Photo (c) IvanJekic - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Bath explored what factors might influence adults’ generosity. 

Their findings showed that the presence of children can impact adults’ charitable donations. According to their findings, adults are more likely to donate when they’re around children versus when there are no children present. 

“While previous evidence has shown that we are typically more helpful and empathetic towards children, no research has been done to data to examine whether the presence of children alone encourages us to be more prosocial towards others in general,” said researcher Dr. Lukas Wolf. “Our research addresses this gap by showing that the presence of children elicits broad prosocial motivation and donation behavior towards causes not directly related to children.” 

How children impact donations

For the study, the researchers combined findings from eight experiments that included data from over 2,000 participants. In one of the experiments, the researchers analyzed how often adults made charitable donations when approached on a street, both with and without the presence of children. 

It was clear that being around kids impacted the adults’ willingness to give, with donations happening twice as often. It’s important to note that this was the case regardless of whether or not the adults had children with them; just the presence of children in the general area was enough to prompt adults to donate more often. 

The researchers accounted for high foot traffic in the area, and the results still held up. The participants’ lifestyles also didn’t influence their donating habits; things like marital or parental status, age, or gender didn’t sway the results.

“Children are indirectly dependent on how adults behave towards each other and towards the planet,” said Dr. Wolf. “Yet, children are also separated from many adult environments, such as workplaces and political bodies where important decisions affect their futures.” 

Because of this, the team hopes these findings can be used to direct future initiatives. If kids can impact adults’ charitable contributions, there are certainly other important ways that they can help. 

“Our findings showing the importance of children for compassionate behavior in society provides a glimpse of a much bigger impact,” said Dr. Wolf. “The finding that the presence of children motivates adults to be more compassionate towards others calls for more integration of children in context where adults make important long-term decisions, such as on climate change.” 

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