Prosocial Development in Adolescence: A Longitudinal Study

Nancy Eisenberg, Paul Miller, Rita Shell, Sandra McNalley, Cindy Shea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

279 Scopus citations


Change in prosocial moral reasoning over an 11-year period, gender differences in prosocial reasoning in adolescence, and the interrelations of moral reasoning, prosocial behavior, and empathy-related emotional responses were examined with longitudinal data and data from adolescents interviewed for the first time. Hedonistic reasoning declined in use until adolescence and then increased somewhat (primarily for boys). Needs-oriented reasoning, direct reciprocity reasoning, and approval and stereotypic reasoning increased until midchildhood or early adolescence and then declined. Several modes of higher level reasoning emerged in late childhood or adolescence. Girls' overall reasoning was higher than boys'. Consistent with expectations, there was some evidence of high level prosocial reasoning being associated with prosocial behavior and empathy and of a relation between sympathy or empathy and prosocial behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-857
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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