Forms of Prosocial Behaviors are Differentially Linked to Social Goals and Peer Status in Adolescents

J Genet Psychol. 2018 Nov-Dec;179(6):329-342. doi: 10.1080/00221325.2018.1518894. Epub 2018 Oct 22.


Traditionally, prosocial behaviors are conceptualized and assessed as a unidimensional construct, but recent research suggests they include various distinct forms, reflecting proactive (instrumental, self-benefiting), reactive (in response to an individual in need), and altruistic (beneficial to others without expectation of personal gain) functions. The authors examined these forms of adolescent prosocial behavior and their links to social goals and social adjustment among peers. In Study 1, they examined agentic (status) and communal (closeness) goals in relation to self-reported altruistic, reactive, and proactive prosocial behaviors. In Study 2, they examined peer-reported altruistic and proactive prosocial behaviors in association with likeability, rejection, and popularity among peers. The associations varied meaningfully among the forms of prosocial behavior. For instance, proactive prosocial behaviors were positively related to agentic goals and popularity, whereas altruistic prosocial behaviors were positively related to communal goals and likeability by peers. The findings underscore the importance of examining multiple forms of prosocial behaviors during adolescence.

Keywords: Prosocial behaviors; adolescents; peer relationships; social goals; social status.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peer Group*
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Desirability*