Primary Outcome

Prosocial attitudes, skills, and behaviors

Parent construct: Social and emotional competence

Prosociality is a matter of wanting to help others, to contribute to one’s community, and to have respectful and caring relationships with others. Young people who develop prosocial attitudes, skills, and behaviors have a considerable advantage in life. Even in a hostile or dangerous environment, children who maintain a positive attitude toward social relationships with peers, adults, parents, and others are more resilient and able to cope with challenges.1 In the context of a nurturing environment, prosocial children will thrive.

Specifically, young people with such a prosocial orientation have significantly fewer behavioral and psychological problems, do better in school, and make more contributions to those around them.1 2 3 In fact, neighborhoods with a large number of prosocial young people have more cooperation and helping.

However, there is also evidence that prosocial young people can be more greatly stressed when they encounter stressful situations,3 presumably because they are not used to coping with them.

If we are going to build neighborhoods of successful young people, it will pay to promote prosociality. But for prosociality to succeed, we need to be sure that our neighborhoods are highly nurturing and minimize stress and conflict.

Related Interventions



  1. Wilson, D.S. & O'Brien, D.T. (2008). Human prosociality from an evolutionary perspective: variation and correlations at a city-wide scale. In preparation.  

  2. Hankins, M., Biglan, A., Rusby, J.C., Sprague, J., & Steiber, S. (2010). The relationship of prosociality to psychological and behavioral problems among early adolescents. In preparation.  

  3. Wilson, D.S. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2007). Health and the ecology of altruism. In S.G. Post (Ed.), The science of altruism and health (pp. 314-331). Oxford: Oxford University Press.