Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

October 1999


Published in Child Development 70:6 (November/December 1999), pp. 1360-1372. Copyright © 1999 by the Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. Published by Blackwell Publishing. Used by permission.


The issue of whether there is consistency in prosocial dispositions was examined with a longitudinal data set extending from ages 4 to 5 years into early adulthood (N = 32). Spontaneous prosocial behaviors observed in the preschool classroom predicted actual prosocial behavior, other- and self-reported prosocial behavior, self-reported sympathy, and perspective taking in childhood to early adulthood. Prosocial behaviors that were not expected to refl ect an other-orientation (i.e., low cost helping and compliant prosocial behavior) generally did not predict later prosocial behavior or sympathy. Sympathy appeared to partially mediate the relation of early spontaneous sharing to later prosocial dispositions. The results support the view that there are stable individual differences in prosocial responding that have their origins in early childhood.