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Altruism: choices of healthy and chronically ill children

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A substantial increase in the number of chronically-ill children in the United States during the past three decades has prompted researchers to investigate the negative consequences and outcomes of chronic illness. The current study attempted to identify strengths of chronically-ill children that may be related to the positive effects of living with the illness. Specifically, this study compared healthy and chronically-ill children's identification with altruistic behaviors and evaluated the experience of living with a chronic illness on children's altruistic choices.

A total of 74 children recruited from a public elementary school and a university hospital participated in this study. A drawing measure and a demographic questionnaire gathered information on the children's altruistic choices, previous hospitalizations, and chronic illnesses.

The results demonstrated that the children in this study made more altruistic choices than nonaltruistic choices. Altruistic choices were found to be significantly higher for girls and for older children. A significant difference was found between the altruistic choices of healthy and chronically-ill children. Finally, significant differences in altruistic choices were not found among chronically-ill children in this'study, whether in school or in the hospital. Recommendations for future research include determining other positive effects of living with a chronic illness, identifying additional methods of assessing altruism'in children, and determining changes over time in healthy and chronically-ill children's altruistic behavior.
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Keywords: Altruism; Chronic illness; Drawing measure; Life experiences; School-age children

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL'35487-0158, USA 2: Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Alabama, P.O.'Box 870158, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0158, USA 3: Department of Health Studies, University of Alabama, Tuscallosa, AL 35487-0311, USA

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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