Development of prosociality and the effects of adversity

Abstract: Understanding how children become kind and caring prosocial adults matters for the survival and thriving of humanity. However, adversity can impact children’s prosocial potential in multifaceted ways. In this Review, we provide critical insights into how humans become prosocial from a developmental-relational perspective. We begin by discussing central factors underlying the development of prosociality in children. Next, we summarize research on the effects of adversity on prosocial development, including the effects of exposure to traumatic life events and everyday hurts and stressors, as well as protective factors that help children to find, remain on, or return to a prosocial path. Then we discuss interventions to nurture prosociality from an early age in every individual, emphasizing the role of practices of care to create positive change at community levels. Finally, we make recommendations for future research.

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Malti, T., & Speidel, R. (2024). Development of prosociality and the effects of adversity. Nature Reviews Psychology, 1-12.