Development of prosocial skills: final report

Rauno K. Parrila, Xin Ma, Darcy Fleming, Christina Rinaldi

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


The present study explores the normal development of prosocial skills and how diverse factors nested at different ecological levels possibly influence this development. Results of such examinations have direct implications for prevention and intervention research, as well as for policy development in these areas. Bronfenbrenner and Morris (1998) discuss the ecology of developmental processes. According to the authors, the initial task of bioecological research is to develop hypotheses of sufficient exploratory power and accuracy to warrant further empirical testing. As Bronfenbrenner and Morris phrase it, this type of research design focuses on the discovery mode and not on a confirmatory process. The present report constitutes an exploratory analysis using data collected in the National Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth (NLSCY) to identify individual, family, school, and community level characteristics that predict children's concomitant and future prosocial skills as rated by parents and teachers. Cycle 1 information of seven year old children, their families, schools, and communities were used to examine the current status as well as the development of prosocial skills. Four primary findings emerged. First, parents and teachers differed substantially on their judgments regarding children's prosocial skills. Second, multiple child, family, and community level variables contributed significantly to predicting parent ratings of children's prosocial skills. Third, change in prosocial skill ratings was limited and therefore poorly predicted by the included independent variables. Finally, contrary to the fan-spread hypothesis, individual differences in prosocial skills did not increase over time. The development of particular scales, questions, and measures were not conducted by the current research team to answer specific hypotheses. Rather, a convenience sample of measures, derived from questions asked in the NLSCY were selected to represent child, family, community, and school level factors presumed to effect directly the development of prosocial skills. Further cross-validation of the dependent and independent measures as defined in this study is needed to verify their ability to capture important variability in their designated constructs. Since only direct effects were assessed, it is possible that some measures that did not have significant direct effect on the dependent variables may still have significant indirect effects via one or more of the other dependent variables limiting the theoretical significance of the findings. In general, the results are consistent with an ecological model of child development and speak to the need of developing and testing specific hypotheses of mediating and moderating relationships between factors existing at different ecological levels. A bibliography and 2 appendixes is included. (Contains 28 tables.)
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationQuebec, Canada
PublisherHuman Resources Development Canada
Number of pages103
ISBN (Electronic)0662334450
ISBN (Print)0662334442
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Canada
  • ERIC, Resources in Education (RIE)
  • Prosocial Behavior
  • Parent Attitudes
  • Correlation
  • Teacher Attitudes
  • Educational Environment
  • Disabilities
  • Foreign Countries
  • Family Structure
  • Television Viewing
  • Adjustment (to Environment)
  • Individual Characteristics
  • Gender Differences
  • Child Development
  • Interpersonal Competence
  • Leisure Time
  • Ecology
  • Social Development
  • Environmental Influences
  • Family Influence
  • Peer Relationship
  • Skill Development
  • Community Influence
  • Predictor Variables
  • Social Adjustment


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