Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 26 (2005), pp. 542–558 Copyright © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


This study examines children’s prosocial behaviors in everyday contexts that represent varying degrees of strength of situational demands. Behavioral observations of children (N = 89) ages 2 to 10 years (M = 5.25, SD = 2.23)., collected in Ngecha, Kenya were coded for 3 types of prosocial behaviors (nurturant, responsible and prosocial dominant) and the contexts in which these behaviors emerged (childcare, self care, labor/chores, play, idle/ social). Mixed factorial ANOVAs showed age differences in prosocial behaviors favoring older children as well as context effects. Prosocial behaviors occurred more frequently than in labor/chores than in play, idle/social or self-care contexts; and prosocial behaviors occurred more frequently during play and idle/social contexts than in self-care contexts. Most nurturant behaviors were performed during childcare. Most responsible behaviors were performed during labor/chores. The contextual differences for responsible and nurturant behaviors were found mostly for the older age groups. Lastly, older children exhibited prosocial dominant behaviors more often than did younger children. Results suggest that both individual level and contextual variables are important in studying different types of prosocial behaviors. Implications for parents and educators are discussed.