Prosocial behavior from early to middle childhood: genetic and environmental influences on stability and change

Dev Psychol. 2006 Sep;42(5):771-86. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.42.5.771.


Prosocial behavior is important for the functioning of society. This study investigates the extent to which environment shared by family members, nonshared environment, and genetics account for children's prosocial behavior. The prosocial behavior of twins (9,424 pairs) was rated by their parents at the ages of 2, 3, 4, and 7 and by their teachers at age 7. For parent ratings, shared environmental effects decreased from .47 on average at age 2 to .03 at age 7, and genetic effects increased from .32 on average to .61. The finding of weak shared environmental effects and large heritability at age 7 was largely confirmed through the use of teacher ratings. Using longitudinal genetic analyses, the authors conclude that genetic effects account for both change and continuity in prosocial behavior and nonshared environment contributes mainly to change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Personality Assessment
  • Phenotype
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment*
  • Socialization*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / psychology
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*
  • Twins, Monozygotic / psychology*