Associations between Prosocial and Problem Behavior from Early to Late Adolescence


prosocial behavior, aggression, delinquency, adolescence, longitudinal


Though recent research has highlighted prosocial behavior as negatively associated with problem behavior during adolescence, we know little about how these variables might be associated longitudinally, whether there are bidirectional effects, and whether there might be different patterns of co-occurrence of behaviors for different individuals. Thus, the current study examined relations between prosocial and problem behaviors in three different ways in an attempt to better understand these associations. Participants included 500 adolescents recruited from a Northwestern state in the USA who took part in the study every year from age 12 to 18 (50% female, 67% European American). Growth curve analyses suggested that change in prosocial behavior was negatively associated with change in aggression and delinquency over time. A longitudinal panel model suggested that prosocial behavior and aggression were negatively associated bidirectionally, and that prosocial behavior was negatively associated with delinquency over time. Finally, mixture modeling conducted at ages 12, 15, and 18 revealed heterogeneity in the ways in which prosocial and problem behaviors co-occur. The discussion focuses on the complexity of interrelations between prosocial behavior and problem behavior across adolescence.

Original Publication Citation

Padilla-Walker, L. M., *Memmott-Elison, M.K, & Coyne, S. M. (2018). Associations between prosocial and problem behavior from early to late adolesc ence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 47, 961-975.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Youth and Adolescence




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor