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The Development of Prosociality from Adolescence to Early Adulthood: The Role of Effortful Control


  • This research was partially supported by grants from the Spencer Foundation and W. T. Grant Foundation to Albert Bandura, from the Italian Ministry of Education University and Research (COFIN: 1998, 2000), from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” to Gian Vittorio Caprara; and from the National Institute of Mental Health to Nancy Eisenberg.

Correspondence should be addressed to Bernadette Paula Luengo Kanacri, Sapienza University of Rome, Via dei Marsi 78, 00185 Roma (Italy). Email:



The present longitudinal study examined the development of self-reported prosociality (i.e., the tendency to enact prosocial behaviors) from adolescence to early adulthood and its prediction from teacher-reported effortful control (i.e., dispositional regulation) at age 13.


Participants were 573 (276 girls) Italian adolescents aged approximately 13 (M = 12.98, SD = 0.80) at the first assessment and 21 (M = 21.23, SD = 0.67) at the last assessment. The study used three different cohorts recruited across ten years (from1994 to 2004) from a larger longitudinal project with a multiple-cohort design.


Latent growth curve modeling indicated that the overall level of prosociality declined until approximately age 17 with a subsequent slight rebound until age 21. Significant inter-individual variability in developmental trends of prosociality in males and females was observed. Youths' effortful control was related to a lesser decline of prosociality in adolescence.


Being able to regulate one's own emotions and behaviors in early adolescence may not only affect the tendency to behave prosocially, but also counter the self-centered tendencies observed across this phase of development.