Children's Reactions to the Receipt of Direct and Indirect Help

Rita M. Shell, Nancy Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


First, third, and fifth graders' (N = 201) reactions to 2 types of aid (direct help [answers] and indirect help [hints]) commonly used by helpers to assist children were examined. The children were randomly assigned to receive either direct or indirect help on a task, and then were asked to try a similar task immediately and again a few days later. Direct help was expected to elicit dependency, whereas indirect help was expected to elicit independent reactions. Age and/or sociocognitive level were predicted to moderate the effects of help. Direct help resulted in feelings of threat, low perceived control, and high dependency help-seeking for girls, but not for boys. Boys who received indirect help and understood the notion of consistency of personality requested less dependent help than did boys with less of this sociocognitive skill. Moreover, children high in the understanding of consistency of personality were more autonomous (i.e., helped themselves more) in the indirect than in the direct help condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1391-1405
Number of pages15
JournalChild development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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