Adolescents’ Prosocial Behaviors Through a Multidimensional and Multicultural Lens


Prosocial behaviors; culture; adolescence


ABSTRACT—The study of prosocial behaviors—actions that benefit others—continues to evolve in sophisticated ways. Such actions are important for understanding moral development, as well as health and behavioral well-being, and have implications for addressing societal and global challenges (e.g., hate crimes, cooperation, peace). In this article, we briefly summarize research on prosocial behaviors during adolescence, a period of age-related changes in these actions that is considered important in the development of moral identity. We review work that conceptualizes these behaviors as global and unidimensional, and present the limits of these early conceptions. We also present a heuristic model that supports a multidimensional approach integrating target, context, motives, culture, and development, and we summarize evidence for the model (with a focus on U.S. Latino/a youth). We assert that a more nuanced approach to the study of prosocial behaviors positions scholars to understand prosocial development more thoroughly and develop effective intervention efforts designed to foster such desirable qualities.

Original Publication Citation

Carlo, G., & Padilla-Walker, L. M. (2020). Adolescents’ prosocial behaviors through a multidimensional and multicultural looking glass: What are prosocial behaviors and why are they important? Child Development Perspectives, 14, 265-272.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Child Development Perspectives




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor