Young children's prosocial responses toward peers and adults in two social contexts.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Young children help and share with others, but little is known about the "how" and "who" of this early prosocial behavior. In the current study, we compared 2- and 3-year-old children's (N = 203; 101 girls) prosocial behavior of sharing and helping. We asked whether the process was different (a) if the social partner was an adult or a same-age peer and (b) if the child was actively interacting and engaged with the partner or not. The highest prosocial responses were found in bilateral joint tasks such as sharing the spoils after a collaborative effort and helping a partner finish a mutual activity. Prosocial responses were lower in unilateral autonomous tasks such as assisting another person in opening a locked box and distributing a windfall of resources. Children did not show an overall preference for helping or sharing with adults versus peers except that they were more likely to support a peer than an adult in an instrumental helping task. Together, these findings suggest that toddlers' early prosocial skills and motivations are more sensitive to how toddlers are engaged with a partner than to who that partner is, implying that children have a nondiscriminatory general inclination to benefit others, especially in bilateral interactive scenarios.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ulber, J; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • October 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 198 /

Start / End Page

  • 104888 -

PubMed ID

  • 32622070

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1096-0457

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-0965

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jecp.2020.104888


  • eng