Associations between Prosocial and Problem Behavior from Early to Late Adolescence
Though recent research has highlighted prosocial behavior as negatively associated with problem behavior during adolescence, we know little about how these variables might be associated longitudinally, whether there are bidirectional effects, and whether there might be different patterns of co-occurrence of behaviors for different individuals. Thus, the current study examined relations between prosocial and problem behaviors in three different ways in an attempt to better understand these associations. Participants included 500 adolescents recruited from a Northwestern state in the USA who took part in the study every year from age 12 to 18 (50% female, 67% European American). Growth curve analyses suggested that change in prosocial behavior was negatively associated with change in aggression and delinquency over time. A longitudinal panel model suggested that prosocial behavior and aggression were negatively associated bidirectionally, and that prosocial behavior was negatively associated with delinquency over time. Finally, mixture modeling conducted at ages 12, 15, and 18 revealed heterogeneity in the ways in which prosocial and problem behaviors co-occur. The discussion focuses on the complexity of interrelations between prosocial behavior and problem behavior across adolescence.
KeywordsProsocial behavior Aggression Delinquency Adolescence Longitudinal
We thank the Family Studies Center at BYU, the School of Family Life, and the College of Family Home and Social Science at BYU, and we recognize the generous support of the many private donors who provided support for this project. We also thank those families who were willing to spend valuable hours with our team in interviews, and the many students who assisted in conducting the interviews.
L.P.W. conceived of the study, organized its design and coordination, performed the statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript. M.M.E. helped draft the manuscript. S.C. helped to conceive of the study and draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Barber, B. K., Stolz, H. E., Olsen, J. A., & Maughn, S. L. (2005). Parental support, psychological control, and behavioral control: Assessing relevance across time, culture, and method. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 70(4), i–147.Google Scholar
- Connolly, E. J., Schwartz, J. A., Nedelec, J. L., Beaver, K. M., & Barnes, J. C. (2015). Different slopes for different folks: Genetic influences on growth in delinquent peer association and delinquency during adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(7), 1413–1427.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Coyne, S. M., Nelson, D. A., & Underwood, M. (2014). Aggression in children. In P. K. Smith, C. H. Hart, P. K. Smith & C. H. Hart (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell handbook of childhood social development (2nd ed.). (pp. 491–509). New York, NY: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Farrell, A. D., Sullivan, T. N., Esposito, L. E., Meyer, A. L., & Valois, R. F. (2005). A latent growth curve analysis of the structure of aggression, drug use, and delinquent behaviors and their interrelations over time in urban and rural adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 15(2), 179–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gerardy, H., Mounts, N. S., Luckner, A. E., & Valentiner, D. P. (2015). Mothers’ management of adolescent peer relationships: Associations with aggressive, prosocial, and playful behavior. The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory On Human Development, 176(5), 299–314. doi: 10.1080/00221325.2015.1066746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hawley, P. H. (2014). Evolution, prosocial behavior, and altruism: A roadmap for understanding where the proximate meets the ultimate. In L. M. Padilla-Walker & G. Carlo (Eds.), Prosocial development: A multidimensional approach (pp. 43–69). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Karriker-Jaffe, K. J., Foshee, V. A., Ennett, S. T., & Suchindran, C. (2008). The development of aggression during adolescence: Sex differences in trajectories of physical and social aggression among youth in rural areas. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36(8), 1227–1236.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Little, T. D. (2013). Longitudinal structural equation modeling. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Nantel-Vivier, A., Kokko, K., Caprara, G. V., Pastorelli, C., Gerbino, M. G., Paciello, M., & Tremblay, R. E. (2009). Prosocial development from childhood to adolescence: A multi-informant perspective with Canadian and Italian longitudinal studies. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50(5), 590–598. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.02039.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Padilla-Walker, L. M., & Carlo, G. (2014). The study of prosocial behavior: Past, present, and future. In L. M. Padilla-Walker & G. Carlo (Eds.), Prosocial development: A multidimensional approach. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199964772.001.0001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington, DC: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Salovey, P., Mayer, J. D., & Rosenhan, D. L. (1991). Mood and helping: Mood as a motivator of helping and helping as a regulator of mood. In M. S. Clark (Ed.), Prosocial behavior (pp. 215–237). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
- Tofighi, D., & Enders, C. K. (2008). Identifying the correct number of classes in growth mixture models. In G. R. Hancock & K. M. Samuelsen (Eds.), Advances in latent variable mixture models (pp. 317–341). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
- Toseeb, U., Pickles, A., Durkin, K., Botting, N., & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2017). Prosociality from early adolescence to young adulthood: A longitudinal study of individuals with a history of language impairment. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 62, 148–159. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2017.01.018.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar