The differential effects of situational and motivational cues and moral reasoning on prosocial behavior in kindergarten and fifth grade children

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Virginia Tech

This study examines the effects of controllability by the victim over his plight, the suggestion of future reciprocity, moral reasoning and social comprehension on the donating behavior of children of differential age groups. Forty-six children of kindergarten age and 32 fifth grade children were divided into four control groups (controllability, controllability/reciprocity, uncontrollability, or uncontrollability/reciprocity), read the condition-appropriate vignette, and then given the opportunity to donate 0-5 items. Additionally, each subject was administered the Prosocial Moral Judgement Inventory (Eisenberg-Berg & Hand, 1979) and the Social Comprehension subtest of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children—Revised (Wechsler, 1974). Nonsignificant results were found for the contollability and reciprocity variables. A T-test revealed near significance, t(75)= 1.87, p< .0657, when effects of age on moral reasoning are assessed. However, a correlational analysis revealed a nonsignificant correlation between moral reasoning and donating. Significant results were obtained, r=.34, between social comprehension and donating. The practical implications of these findings suggest that children's socialization plays an important role in prosocial behavior. Moreover, socialization through experiential versus purely cognitive approaches may be most beneficial.