Prosocial Behaviors in Early Childhood

This paper explores prosocial behavior amongst children using videos from various online platforms such as YouTube, Desired Results (DRDP), and Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU). Each video contains a varying number of children who are in a similar age range. All the children involved in this observation are, however, in early childhood. This essay explores the role of adults in the development of prosocial behaviors, the impact of the environment on the prosocial behaviors, specific examples of prosocial behaviors demonstrated by the children, and the role of adults in communication that impacts prosocial behaviors.

Prosocial Behavior Definition, Explanation, and Importance

Prosocial behavior refers to the voluntary actions meant to benefit and better the well-being of other people or groups. These actions include helping another person, sharing what is available, consoling a disappointed person, comforting a person who feels uncomfortable, cooperating with other people or a group, and protecting a person in jeopardy (Thielmann et al., 2020). Prosocial behavior may have evolutionary roots amongst humans in providing a biological adaptation to cohesive living in society (Jambon et al., 2019). The development of prosocial behaviors in early childhood is attributed to social and emotional competence throughout childhood, such as peer approval, empathy, self-belief, and emotion control skills.

Prosocial behavior is also associated with school performance and enhanced cognitive faculties such as emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and moral reasoning (Moriguchi et al., 2019). Differences in prosocial behavior amongst adults indicate the apparent variations amongst people in all spheres of life, caused by different factors in life. The distinctions may be genetic differences that account for individual dissimilarities or early childhood moral development that acts as a suitable foundation for adult prosocial behavior (Spinrad & Gal, 2018). Skills such as perspective-taking, empathy, and self-regulation are crucial for the development of prosocial behavior.

Impact of the Physical Environment on Prosocial Behavior

Prosocial behavior in a child is affected by the physical environment they spend most of their time in. If adult equipment is present at a child’s playground, their curiosity and excitement are dampened. An illustration of a relevant physical environment for children includes a video with mallets and drums (CECE Video Library, 2020c). The children end up learning how to express themselves due to the relevance of the drums and mallets. The children also develop curiosity and an inquisitive attitude from this scenario. Another example depicts children with sand, water, and stones trying to make chicken noodle soup (CECE Video Library, 2020f). Questions about the sifter the children are playing with encourage their creativity and boost their ability to express themselves.

Specific Examples of Prosocial Behaviors Exhibited by the Children

Empathy and remorse are crucial prosocial behaviors that enable peaceful coexistence amongst people. Children learn this at an early age. Apologizing entails accepting a mistake and making a commitment to change a person’s conduct. CECE Video Library has one specific example of a child empathizing with another, feeling remorseful for their action, and apologizing for their error (CECE Video Library, 2020d). One child excitedly waves their shovel and hits another accidentally. The boy immediately checks on the girl to see whether she has sustained any injuries and repeatedly apologizes for his error. He promises not to repeat his actions as he has realized the harm they pose to his friend.

Negotiating and taking turns are essential prosocial skills amongst people and are developed in early childhood. Turn-taking ensures that everybody is given a chance to contribute to a discussion. Negotiating ensures that every party is satisfied in the end. There is no loser, and all involved parties get to feel satisfied at the end. One of the children is unwilling to share their mallet in a specific example that involves this (CECE Video Library, 2020g). The disgruntled child suggests that the two of them can share the drums. This suggestion would ensure that each one of them gets a drum to play since there are enough for the two of them. The child initially hesitates to agree with the terms but eventually agrees, and they both play the drums.

Cooperation is a necessary prosocial behavior that is vital in daily life. It ensures that group work is effective in achieving collective objectives. For cooperation to be attained, one must listen to another and heed their suggestions. Their actions must be in tandem for an effective result. One of the children suggests playing the drums in rhythm in a specific example that involves this (CECE Video Library, 2020b). Initially, two children are unhappy with the tune each of them is playing on the drums. They also disagree on who should have which mallet. In the course of the engagement, one suggests that the other takes the bigger mallet. One starts playing the drum and instructs the other to join at a specific time. This cooperation creates a tune and rhythm that is desirable for both of them.

Influence of Adults on Prosocial Behavior

Adults involved in a child’s early childhood are mainly the parents and the teachers. They can influence a child’s prosocial behavior in vital ways. This involvement is evident in the observation made in one of the videos where a mother participates in an act where she pretends to talk through an imaginary phone (CECE Video Library, 2020h). When her younger child begins to speak on an imaginary phone, the mother joins in the act. This involvement encourages her elder child to participate in the action, illustrating the impact parents have in enhancing cooperation as one crucial prosocial behavior in children.

A teacher gets involved in negotiating a solution. Two children are playing with sand, stones, and water. Another child tries to interfere with their game, and the children react (CECE Video Library, 2020e). They insist that the other child should not touch the stuff they are playing using. The intruder is adamant, but the teacher insists on the solution the children are proposing, constantly reminding the intruding child. This child eventually listens and stops interfering with their play. Adults can reinforce prosocial behaviors ensuring that children develop them and practice them without fear.

Communication by Adults to the Children Influenced Prosocial Behavior

Children look up to adults in the expression and development of their prosocial behaviors. What the parents say to them or teach them by their actions affects children’s presentation of these behaviors. In a specific example, a mother boosts her child’s confidence when the child is explaining about his balloon (CECE Video Library, 2020a). She maintains an inquisitive and curious face throughout that encourages the child to continue explaining about the balloon. The mother also thanks the child for explaining to her. This expression of gratitude makes the child feel valued and boosts his confidence. The mother also finishes off most of the words the child is unable to say, demonstrating attention to detail and encouraging the child to carry on, boosting the child’s self-confidence.

Another example of an adult communicating with a child involves a teacher who encourages a child to express themselves in front of other children confidently by asking more questions about the mallet (CECE Video Library, 2020c). The teacher also maintains a friendly face throughout the discourse, which encourages the children to answer more questions and attempt them even when unsure about their answers. This friendliness promotes prosocial behaviors of expression and confidence.

Another example of an adult communicating with a child is where a teacher encourages one child to play with another (CECE Video Library, 2020i). The girl tries to persuade the boy to play with her in making a house. The boy is hesitant, and the teacher reiterates the girl’s words to the boy more clearly and in a convincing tone. This involvement boosts the prosocial skill of socializing. Eventually, the boy agrees to play with the girl, and this can be attributed to the encouragement offered by the teacher.

Lessons on Creating a Prosocial Environment

The observation has highlighted the importance of creating a comfortable environment where children can thrive. Creating this environment involves ensuring that an adult intervenes to break the communication barrier that may hamper understanding. Another crucial role of an adult is offering encouragement and positive reinforcement to a child so that they do not give up in their quest. Parents should offer correction in the most encouraging way possible that does not scare the child from acting. Adults must also focus on a child’s strengths when reinforcing prosocial behavior in a child to ensure an undue focus on their weaknesses does not inconvenience the child.


CECE Video Library. (2020a). Clip #1453 – Child Describes Creation to Mom. Eastern Connecticut State University. Web.

CECE Video Library. (2020b). Clip #1454 – What’s a Better Choice? Eastern Connecticut State University. Web.

CECE Video Library. (2020c). Clip #1458 – Why Did We Put the Tissue in the Mallet? Eastern Connecticut State University. Web.

CECE Video Library. (2020d). Clip #1466 – I’m Sorry, Bailey – Eastern. Web.

CECE Video Library. (2020e). Clip #1470 – Don’t Pick It Up. Eastern Connecticut State University. Web.

CECE Video Library. (2020f). Clip #1471 – Chicken Noodle Soup. Eastern Connecticut State University. Web.

CECE Video Library. (2020g). Clip #1474 – Negotiating a Turn. Eastern Connecticut State University. Web.

CECE Video Library. (2020h). Clip #1473 – Pretend Phone. Eastern Connecticut State University. Web.

CECE Video Library. (2020i). Clip #1475 – Supporting a Dual Language Learner in Blocks. Eastern Connecticut State University. Web.

Jambon, M., Madigan, S., Plamondon, A., & Jenkins, J. (2019). Developmental trajectories of physical aggression and prosocial behavior in early childhood: Family antecedents and psychological correlates. Developmental Psychology, 55(6), 1211–1225. Web.

Moriguchi, Y., Shinohara, I., Todo, N., & Meng, X. (2019). Prosocial behavior is related to later executive function during early childhood: A longitudinal study. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 17(3), 352–364. Web.

Spinrad, T. L., & Gal, D. E. (2018). Fostering prosocial behavior and empathy in young children. Current Opinion in Psychology, 20, 40–44. Web.

Thielmann, I., Spadaro, G., & Balliet, D. (2020). Personality and prosocial behavior: A theoretical framework and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 146(1), 30–90. Web.

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