Effects of Rewards on Children's Prosocial Motivation: A Socialization Study

Richard Fabes, Jim Fultz, Nancy Eisenberg, Traci May-Plumlee, F. Scott Christopher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


This study examined the relation between mothers' attitudes/practices regarding the use of rewards and children's susceptibility to the undermining effects of rewards. We assessed the attitudes/practices regarding rewards for 72 mothers and assigned their children to a control condition or to one of four experimental conditions that differed in whether children received rewards for helping and whether children engaged in the helping task or watched other children help. Children were then given an opportunity to help in a nonreward free-choice period. Rewards enhanced helping in the immediate situation. However, rewards undermined children's helping in the free-choice period, but only for children whose mothers felt positive about using rewards. Moreover, mothers who felt more positive about using rewards reported their children to be less prosocial than children of mothers who had less positive attitudes. It was suggested that children's responses to rewards depend in part on their experiences with rewards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-515
Number of pages7
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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