Social and cognitive predictors of prosocial behavior in adolescents

Pao Yue-kong Library Electronic Theses Database

Social and cognitive predictors of prosocial behavior in adolescents


Author: Lai, Ho Yin
Title: Social and cognitive predictors of prosocial behavior in adolescents
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2016
Subject: Helping behavior.
Social psychology.
Adolescent psychology.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Rehabilitation Sciences
Pages: xvii, 278 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: Adopting the social ecological model, this thesis hypothesized that several variables in individual competence and social influence are good predictors of prosocial behavior among Chinese adolescents in Hong Kong. At the individual level, empathy and moral reasoning have long been identified as key individual areas of competence shaping the development of prosocial behavior in adolescents. At the social level, three aspects of social influence are expected to be associated with prosocial behavior. Peer relationships were hypothesized to be a strong predictor of prosocial behavior. Role modeling by parents and the influence of school were expected to be less important predictors of the prosocial behavior of adolescents when compared with peer influence. This study covers three parts. In the first part, three instruments for measuring the key constructs of prosocial moral reasoning, parental influence, and peer influence were adapted and translated. A validation of the three instruments was conducted using the Prosocial Reasoning Objective Measures (PROM), the Parent Helping Measures (PHM), and the Adolescent Helping Measures (AHM). The validation study examined the content validity, cultural relevance, and quality of translation by means of an expert panel review. The study also obtained estimates of the test-retest reliability of the instruments. The convergent validity of the Chinese PROM was obtained by correlating it with the Chinese Interpersonal Reactivity Index (C-IRI). The expert panel members agreed that all the test scenarios in the Chinese PROM were culturally relevant and appropriate for testing prosocial moral reasoning in young people. The internal consistency of the C-PROM subscales and the weighted total ranged from .74 to .93 (Cronbach's α), while the test-retest reliability ranged from .75 to .88 (ICCs), and are considered "acceptable" to "satisfactory". The Chinese Parent Helping Measure (PHM) also had good internal consistency (Cronbach's α = .88), while the test-retest reliability ranged from .75 to .83 (ICCs). The Chinese Adolescent Helping Measure (AHM) demonstrated good internal consistency (Cronbach's α = .88), while the test-retest reliability ranged from .75 to .88 (ICCs). The reliability estimates of both the PHM and the AHM are regarded as ranging from "acceptable" to "satisfactory". The availability of these instruments enables a researcher to assess the prosocial moral reasoning, parental influence and peer influence of young people in an objective and efficient manner.
The second part of this study is phase one of the main study. It aims to describe the nature of prosocial behavior and to examine its correlates. A group of high school students, who represented their school attending a joint-school mass event, were invited to participate in a questionnaire survey of their antisocial and prosocial behavior. It included how far they agree with prosocial norms or pragmatic values, and measures of their moral reasoning and empathy. This questionnaire had a total of 83 items. A total of 533 high school students participated in the study, and the response rate was around 35.5%. Gender differences were found in some of the measures, namely prosocial norms, pragmatic values, prosocial reasoning and empathy-related constructs, including personal distress, fantasy, and empathetic concern. Moreover, correlation analyses showed that parental education, prosocial norms, pragmatic values, moral reasoning and empathy were related to prosocial behavior. Regression analyses showed that prosocial norms, pragmatic values and empathy dimensions (personal distress and empathy) were key predictors of prosocial behavior. Other than the negative relationship between personal distress and prosocial behavior, the findings are largely consistent with theoretical predictions and previous research findings. This study also underscores the importance of values and norms in predicting prosocial behavior, which has been largely neglected in previous studies. Part three of this study is the second phase of the main study. It aims to explore whether or not cognitive and social predictors could predict the prosocial behavior of Chinese adolescents in Hong Kong. The research questionnaire included a total of 142 items and incorporated a number of standardized instruments designed to measure the key variables, including prosocial behavior, prosocial reasoning, empathy, peer influence, school influence and parental influence. A purposive sample of 580 secondary students with prosocial characteristics was recruited through social services and volunteer organizations. The participants were secondary school students who were aged between 12 and 16 years old, and had been participating in at least one volunteer activity regularly (at least biweekly) outside school hours. Results from multiple regression showed that social influence factors, including peer influence, school influence and parental influence, are strong predictors of prosocial behavior, while cognitive factors like empathy and prosocial moral reasoning are not. Unlike the results of Part 2, gender differences in these variables were not found, except that males showed a significant difference from females regarding parental influence. The findings indicate that social influence is strongly linked to prosocial behavior. The study implied that modeling, socialization and social support for prosocial norms and behavior could exert a powerful influence on the prosocial behavior of young people in a Chinese population.

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