The Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism: The Role of the Recipient’s Neediness

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We examined the role of the recipient’s neediness as a moderator in the relation between children’s household religiosity and prosocial behavior. Examining the behavior of children (2nd and 5th graders) from religious and nonreligious households in the dictator game, we found that the extent of sharing did not differ significantly between the 2 groups when the recipient was not described as needy. However, when the recipient was presented as a poor (needy) child, the religious group exhibited significantly more sharing behavior. Although the religious children’s tendency to share more with needy recipients compared with the not-needy ones appeared already in the 2nd grade, it increased with age as children grew and internalized the norms of their immediate society. Among the major religions, the recipient’s neediness is an important variable in the decision to give, which shapes religious children’s prosocial behavior from an early age. Thus, future research should take this moderator into account when studying the relation between religiousness and prosociality in general and in the development of prosociality in children in particular.

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