Prosocial Motivation: Inferences From an Opaque Body of Work

Nancy Eisenberg, Sarah K. VanSchyndel, Tracy Spinrad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Because motivations for prosocial actions typically are unclear, sometimes even to actors but especially for observers, it is difficult to study prosocial motivation. This article reviews research that provides evidence regarding children's motives for prosocial behaviors. First, we present a heuristic model to classify motives on the dimension of reflecting altruistic (with the ultimate goal of benefiting another) to egoism (the ultimate goal of benefiting the self) goals; in addition, we briefly discuss classifying motives based on a continuum of morality. Next, we review findings indicating the existence of a number of different motives in our model and briefly discuss developmental issues, when possible. Future directions for the study of prosocial motivation are proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1668-1678
Number of pages11
JournalChild Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Prosocial Motivation: Inferences From an Opaque Body of Work'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this