Prosocial youth less likely to associate with deviant peers, engage in problem behaviors

by Diamond Dixon

Prosocial behaviors, or actions intended to help others, remain an important area of focus for researchers interested in factors that reduce violence and other behavioral problems in youth. However, little is known regarding the connection between prosocial and antisocial behaviors. A new study by a University of Missouri human development expert found that prosocial behaviors can prevent youth from associating with deviant peers, thereby making the youth less likely to exhibit antisocial or problem behaviors, such as aggression and delinquency.

"This study reaffirms suspicions that youth who engage in some forms of prosocial behaviors, such as helping, volunteering and comforting others, are less likely to engage in antisocial behaviors such as aggression and affiliating with deviant peers," said Gustavo Carlo, the Millsap Professor of Diversity in the MU Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Carlo and his colleagues surveyed more than 650 adolescent children in Valencia, Spain, about their prosocial behaviors, affiliations with deviant peers, and delinquent and aggressive tendencies.

Of the six forms of prosocial behaviors measured, Carlo found that only two forms, altruism and compliancy, significantly reduced the chances of adolescents' displaying . Compliant prosocial behaviors are actions that often require some level of social conformity and respect for authority, while altruistic behaviors are actions done without concern for self-reward.

Carlo said identifying which forms of prosocial behaviors are related to antisocial behaviors has important implications for intervention programs designed to reduce problem behaviors and promote more constructive prosocial behaviors in adolescents.

"Developers of intervention programs could use these findings to create programs that teach youth the benefits of engaging in prosocial behaviors," Carlo said. "Such preventative efforts may be most effective in preventing from affiliating with deviant peers and from engaging in subsequent aggressive and delinquent behaviors."

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. The study, "The protective role of prosocial behaviors on : the mediating effects of deviant peer affiliation," will be published in the Journal of Adolescence. Carlo's co-authors included researchers from the Chicago School for Professional Psychology, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Valencia in Spain.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers examine media impact in multiple countries

Dec 12, 2013

A cross-cultural study, led by Iowa State University researchers, shows prosocial media and video games positively influence behavior regardless of culture. The study, a first-of-its-kind, tested levels of empathy and helpfulness ...

Recommended for you

Toddlers copy their peers to fit in, but apes don't

15 hours ago

From the playground to the board room, people often follow, or conform, to the behavior of those around them as a way of fitting in. New research shows that this behavioral conformity appears early in human ...

Sadness lasts longer than other emotions

16 hours ago

Why is it that you can feel sad up to 240 times longer than you do feeling ashamed, surprised, irritated or even bored? It's because sadness often goes hand in hand with events of greater impact such as death ...

Can parents make their kids smarter?

16 hours ago

Reading bedtime stories, engaging in conversation and eating nightly dinners together are all positive ways in which parents interact with their children, but according to new research, none of these actions ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.