Prosocial behaviour is described as a voluntary behaviour in order to benefit someone else (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). This prosocial behaviour such as sharing, helping, sympathy and empathy form an important part of the social interactions between individuals and groups and has thus been studied in terms of where these behaviours come from. To illustrate Eisenberg and Fabes' quote (1998, pg 742) that prosocial behaviour is an outcome of a combination of many factors, five different possible causes of these behaviours will now be discussed. Biological Determinants:
Research has shown that biological determinants do play some role in the individual differences in prosocial behaviour and empathic concern (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). Evidence for this includes the following:(a) animals which display some helping and sharing behaviours, (b) identical twins who tend to score higher than fraternal twins on correlation of these behaviours, (c) 1- and 2-day old babies who will cry if another baby cries, (d) the limbic system being involved in empathy and (d) evolution which has shown that these behaviours are widespread in humans, and that these behaviours are common even in children. There tends to be a significant genetic component in the early years, as studies have showed children of 14 month and 20 months having significant genetic contributions to prosocial behaviour (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). Cultural Factors:
Different types of research have been performed investigating the role of culture in the development of prosocial behaviour. Some research has shown differences but others have not. This may be due to the fact that there are different cultural values and norms to compare, e.g. certain cultures place importance on different types of prosocial actions such as responding when asked and not asked. Moral reasoning is different across cultures which also making research difficult. Braten (1996) showed that 2-3 year olds across continents enact prosocial behaviour, however when a mother encourages egoistical needs in a dominant and aggressive manner, less prosocial behaviour is shown (Braten, 1996). Israeli kibbutz research has shown that children show high levels of concern for humanness and that adults tend to be more helpful. Laboratory studies have shown that Mexican American children tend to give more to their peers than Anglo-American children and how similar tendencies decrease with second- and third-generation Mexican American children possibly due to acculturation and a weaker sense of ethnic identity (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). However, research has not been consistent and many examples can be cited of the differing results that have been reached. Interesting observational research showed that children with more prosocial behaviour tended to come from cultures where the female role was important, work was less specialised and there was a more decentralised government. Thus the children had to do more chores and take more responsibility for the family in terms of care and economic welfare (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). Socialization within the family:
The bulk of the research lies in this area, i.e. how parenting effects prosocial behaviour and other related emotional and family issues (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). Family features such as socioeconomic status, family structure and family size may play a role but findings for all of these are inconsistent. Conclusive research shows that siblings tend to be more helpful when their mother is present versus absent. There is also significant research with regards to child-rearing practices although these have also been inconsistent at times. This will be reviewed in more detail. The family environment is significant in the development of prosocial behaviour, as the marital relationship and other significant relationships provide the models for caring relationships in the household, as well as for the values of that family (Robinson & Zahn-Waxler, 1994). The...
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