Research Topic

Sugar and Spice, and Everything Nice: Exploring Prosocial Development Through Infancy and Early Childhood

About this Research Topic

Prosocial behaviours such as sharing, helping, and comforting begin to emerge early in development. The presence of these prosocial behaviours is important not only in childhood, but throughout one’s lifetime, as behaving prosocially is important for social functioning and maintaining social relationships. ...

Prosocial behaviours such as sharing, helping, and comforting begin to emerge early in development. The presence of these prosocial behaviours is important not only in childhood, but throughout one’s lifetime, as behaving prosocially is important for social functioning and maintaining social relationships.
For many years researchers have been interested in how and when these behaviours develop, as well as how these behaviours are influenced by a variety of factors. Recently however, exciting new research has shown novel and surprising findings, particularly on the early development and ontogenetic origins of prosocial behaviour.

Research is this area is important, as by understanding what influences prosocial behaviour, we may be better able to sustain and support the development of prosociality. Further, a richer understanding may help us to be better able to mediate factors that impede or negatively influence positive social behaviours, as well as negate triggers that may lead to negative social behaviours.

Many theoretical views guide different streams of developmental research in this field. Here, we will bring together scholars from various theoretical backgrounds, to collectively explore the development of early prosocial behaviours from early infancy to early school aged children. Contributors will offer insights using a variety of methodologies, from various resource allocation paradigms derived from economist game theorists, to looking time paradigms, to cross cultural comparisons, and more.

Together we seek to broadly explore questions pertaining to prosocial development, for example- at what age do prosocial behaviours, moral understanding, or sensitivity to inequity emerge? Contributors will individually address unique research questions across a spectrum of topics. For example, with regards to socio-cultural influences, questions pertaining to cross cultural differences in prosocial behaviour and how social group attitudes influence individual behaviour will be addressed. How prosocial behaviours are influenced by underlying mechanisms, such as moral emotions (e.g. guilt, sympathy, and respect), will be explored, as will how children’s expectations may shape their behaviours, and how they come to care about others. Questions surrounding different contexts will also be investigated. For example, what may lead children to judge, punish, or morally condemn others? Do children behave differently depending on whether or not their actions are known by others? Does whether there is a cost associated with behaving prosocially influence decision-making? In which contexts do children treat different partners, such as friends and non-friends differently?

By incorporating the work of numerous researchers in the field of prosocial development, who contribute unique theoretical perspectives and empirical approaches, the proposed research topic endeavours to provide new insights into a breadth of prosocial behaviours such as sharing, helping, and comforting. In sum, the proposed research topic will contribute to our understanding of prosocial development in the early years by highlighting the relevant factors and contexts under which prosocial behaviour emerges.


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