Prosocial behavior Externalizing behaviors Internalizing symptoms Meta-analysis


The purpose of this study was to conduct a meta-analysis investigating the consistency and strength of relations between prosocial behavior, externalizing behaviors, and internalizing symptoms from preadolescence (i.e., 1–9 years) to late adolescence (i.e., 19–25 years). This study directly addresses inconsistencies and gaps in the available literature by providing the field with a detailed, synthesized description of these associations. Method: Fifty-five studies met the inclusion criteria, containing 742 independent correlational effect sizes. Statistical information and other study information was coded and entered into Comprehensive Meta-analysis III software, which was used to analyze results. Results: Results showed that higher levels of prosocial behavior were significantly associated with lower levels of externalizing behaviors, as expected. Additionally, more reported prosocial behavior was related to less reported internalizing symptoms. Follow-up analyses revealed spe- cific relationships between prosocial behavior and aggression, deviant peer association, risky sexual behavior, substance use, delinquency/general externalizing behavior, depression, and general internalizing behaviors (i.e., emotional problems, negative emotionality). A variety of moderators of these associations were considered, including age and sex. Conclusions: Findings are discussed in the context of the broader research literature, weaknesses in the field are noted, and numerous meaningful directions for future research are presented.

Original Publication Citation

Memmott-Elison, M. K., *Holmgren, H. G., Padilla-Walker, L. M., Hawkins, A. J. (2020, onlinefirst). Associations between prosocial behavior, externalizing behaviors, and internalizing symptoms during adolescence: A meta-analysis. Journal of Adolescence.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Adolescence




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor