Researchers from the University of Toronto, University of Chicago, and Liaoning Normal University conducted research into the effects of a severe earthquake in China (2008) on children aged 9 and 6. The results show that older children tend to have an increase in altruistic behaviour with the reverse in the younger group. Eventually both groups returned to normal behaviour for their age groups.
A crucial difference between the two age groups emerged one month after the disaster. The 6-year-olds’ willingness to share in a test measuring altruism dropped by a third, while among 9-year-olds, willingness to give to others nearly tripled. Three years later, children in the age groups returned to pre-earthquake levels of altruism.
“The study provides the first evidence to suggest that experiencing a natural disaster affects children’s altruistic giving significantly,” said Kang Lee, university distinguished professor at the University of Toronto.
“The immediate negative effect of the earthquake on 6–year-olds suggests that altruism at that age is still fragile,” Lee said.