The accumulating literature suggests that identifying antecedents of prosocial behavior may have benefits to children's and adolescents'healthy growth and development. Research shows robust links of prosocial behavior to positive socioemotional, health, and educational outcomes. From a prevention science perspective, efforts to improve prosocial behavior may also have significance because research suggests it may serve as a protective factor against behaviors that pose a risk for adverse health and educational outcomes. The objective of this study will be to conduct a meta-analysis of the research relating to instructional strategies designed to increase the prosocial behavior of children and youth. Focal questions to be addressed include (a) what is the magnitude of the effects of instructional strategies on prosocial behavior? (b) Which specific instructional strategies show evidence of producing meaningful and/or lasting effects on prosocial behavior? (c) Which instructional techniques appear most beneficial for different demographic groups of children (e.g., age, gender, and ethnicity/race)? (d) How does the magnitude of the effects fluctuate in response to various instructional strategy characteristics (i.e., format, dosage), adut socializer characteristics (i.e., gender, relationship to child), and study design features (e.g., randomization)? To yield the sample, a rigorous search will be conducted for published and unpublished experimental and high quality quasi-experimental studies. Descriptives will summarize the literature on this topic. Random effects meta-regression analyses are planned to examine the overall effects and variability of effects of instructional strategies and the comparative and longer-term effects of different types of instructional strategies. If there is significant variability in effects, moderator analyses will explore how much, for whom, and under what conditions instructional strategies appear to enhance prosocial behavior. Publication bias will be examined in funnel plots and regression-based assessment. A small body of experimental and quasi-experimental studies suggests that adults can have positive impacts on children's prosocial behavior with techniques such as modeling, positive reinforcement, and empathic arousal. However, overall, this research has yielded indeterminate, mixed results. A meta-analysis would provide methodological rigor by quantitatively summarizing data across studies on this topic to resolve inconsistencies in the literature. This investigation would be the needed groundwork to provide a solid empirical knowledge base that can guide future research and fields of application. Outputs could be both valuable and practical in providing educators, parents, school systems, researchers, and policy-makers with information on the specific instructional strategies that show promise across studies for enhancing sharing, helping, and other prosocial behaviors of children and youth.

Public Health Relevance

The benefits to lives of children and youth in identifying antecedents of prosocial behavior are suggested by research in the last few decades that shows strong links of prosocial behavior to positive social, emotional, health, and educational outcomes. The primary focus of the proposed meta-analysis will be to evaluate the effectiveness of various adult instructional strategies for enhancing the prosocial behavior of children and youth as well as to address questions of how much, under what conditions, and for whom different types of instructional practices impact prosocial behavior. This research synthesis has vital implications for public health, particularly for the healthy growth and development of children and adolescents, and could guide future research and aid teachers and other practitioners in supporting constructive, adaptive, and helpful behaviors in interactions, relationships, and communities.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Esposito, Layla E
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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