Title

Can helping others strengthen teens? Character strengths as mediators between prosocial behavior and adolescents’ internalizing symptoms

Keywords

Prosocial behavior Character strengths Self-esteem Internalizing problems Depressive symptoms Anxiety symptoms

Abstract

Introduction: Identifying protective factors against internalizing behaviors during adolescence is a public health priority, as rates of depression and anxiety are rising. As such, the purpose of this study was to examine whether prosocial engagement toward strangers and family members is protective against depressive and anxiety symptoms, and whether this link is mediated by character strengths (i.e., hope, persistence, gratitude, and self-esteem).Method: The sample consisted of 500 US adolescents (52% female; 66% European American;33% from single-parent families). Data across three consecutive yearly waves were utilized in the current study (Mage Time 1 = 13.32).Results: Results of a longitudinal structural equation model revealed prosocial behavior toward strangers and family members were differentially related to character strengths, and that pro-social behavior toward strangers was indirectly associated with depressive symptoms via self-esteem. Conclusion: Taken together, findings extend the Developmental Cascades model and suggest that prosocial behavior and character strengths protect against depressive symptoms during the adolescent period. Findings are discussed in the context of relevant research and theory, and implications for future research and intervention programs are presented

Original Publication Citation

Padilla-Walker, L. M., *Millett, M., *Memmott-Elison, M. (2020, onlinefirst). Can helping others strengthen teens? Character strengths as mediators between prosocial behavior and adolescents’ internalizing symptoms. Journal of Adolescence.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date

2020-01-01

Publisher

Journal of Adolescence

Language

English

College

Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Department

Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

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