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Prosocial Behaviors and Development


Although scholars have long recognized the importance of prosocial behaviors (or actions intended to benefit others) to understanding morality, the field has continued to evolve in quite sophisticated ways. This chapter provides a summary of contemporary theory and research on prosocial behaviors and development. We begin with a brief overview of major theoretical frameworks that have informed much of the developmental research on prosocial behaviors. The contemporary research on age- and gender-related differences, socialization and culture-related correlates, and intrapersonal traits linked to prosocial behaviors is then highlighted. We focus on recent work that adopts an integrative biological, psychological, behavioral, and cultural approach and that considers the multidimensionality and complexity of prosocial behaviors. We conclude with a recommendation for future research on prosocial behaviors (e.g., toward in-group/out-group members, selflessly motivated forms) that address social injustices and inequities.

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