Adolescent Prosocial Behavior: The Role of Self-Processes and Contextual Cues


  • The authors would like to thank Barbara Walker, Baltimore County Public Schools, for her invaluable help in implementing this study.
    The findings of this study were presented, in part, at the 2003 biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Tampa, FL, and as part of the second author's doctoral dissertation.

concerning this article should be addressed to Kathryn R. Wentzel. Electronic mail be sent to


Peer- and teacher-reported prosocial behavior of 339 6th-grade (11–12 years) and 8th-grade (13–14 years) students was examined in relation to prosocial goals, self-processes (reasons for behavior, empathy, perspective taking, depressive affect, perceived competence), and contextual cues (expectations of peers and teachers). Goal pursuit significantly predicted prosocial behavior, and goal pursuit provided a pathway by which reasons for behavior were related to behavior. Reasons reflected external, other-focused, self-focused, and internal justifications for behavior; each reason was related to a unique set of self-processes and contextual cues. Associations between prosocial outcomes and sex and race (Caucasian and African American) were mediated in part by self-processes and contextual cues. The implications of studying prosocial behavior from a motivational perspective are discussed.