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Age Changes in Prosocial Responding and Moral Reasoning in Adolescence and Early Adulthood

Eisenberg, N.,
Cumberland, A.,
Guthrie, I. K.,
Murphy, B. C.,
Shepard, S. A.
Year Published: 2005
Journal Article
Society for Research on Adolescence
Journal of Research on Adolescence, Volume 15(3):235-260, September 2005
National Institute of Mental Health

The authors of this article examined age changes' measures of prosocial responding and reasoning. To do so, they obtained participants' reports of helping, empathy-related responding, and prosocial moral reasoning in adolescence (from age 15 16 years) and into adulthood (to age 25 26 years). Perspective taking and approval/interpersonal oriented/stereotypic prosocial moral reasoning increased from adolescence into adulthood, whereas personal distress declined. Helping declined and then increased (a cubic trend). Prosocial moral judgment composite scores (and self-reflective empathic reasoning) generally increased from late adolescence into the early 20s (age 17 18 to 21 22) but either leveled off or declined slightly thereafter (i.e., showed linear and cubic trends); rudimentary needs-oriented reasoning showed the reverse pattern of change. The increase in self-reflective empathic moral reasoning was for females only. Thus, perspective taking and some aspects of prosocial moral reasoning capacities with a strong sociocognitive basis showed the clearest increases with age, whereas simple prosocial proclivities (i.e., helping, sympathy) did not increase with age. Modified Author Abstract.

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