The influence of socioeconomic status and appearance-reality understanding on pre-schoolers' sharing and generosity

Nawal Hashim, Nastassja L. Fischer, Elizabeth B. Kim, Wei Jun Jean Yeung, Rongjun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Prosocial behaviour can be defined as any voluntary action that is performed to benefit another individual. Despite accumulating evidence of the importance of environmental variables (e.g., socioeconomic status; SES), and individual characteristics (e.g., theory of mind – ToM – skills), in influencing prosocial behaviours in young children, it is unknown how these factors relate to the underlying motivations for prosocial behaviours. Accordingly, both extrinsically (sharing) and intrinsically (generosity)-guided prosocial behaviours are measured in this study. We explore the influences of SES and ToM skills on young children's sharing behaviour and generosity, while controlling their age, working memory and language skills. Sixty-six 4- to 6 year olds (Mage = 5.24 years, SD = 0.73) from diverse SES (measured by parental education level) and ethnic backgrounds in Singapore completed tasks assessing the ToM measures of false belief and appearance-reality understanding, working memory, language skills, generosity, and sharing behaviour. The results of hierarchical regression analyses demonstrate that the father's education level and children's appearance-reality understanding were significant predictors of sharing, after controlling for age, working memory, language skills, and the mother's education level. Children's appearance-reality understanding was the sole predictor of children's generosity. Our findings highlight the impact of children's ability to hold different views of reality and their family's education levels on the development of sharing and generosity in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-342
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date28 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience

User-Defined Keywords

  • generosity
  • prosocial behaviour
  • sharing
  • socioeconomic status
  • theory of mind


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