Prosocial Behavior: The Role of Parenting, Coparenting, and Temperament on the Development of Children's Prosocial Behavior

Open Access
Scrimgeour, Meghan Brewer
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
October 06, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Alysia Blandon, Thesis Advisor
  • Prosocial behavior
  • parenting
  • coparenting
  • temperament
During toddlerhood, prosocial behavior begins to emerge in children’s interactions with family members and peers (Zahn-Waxler, Radke-Yarrow, Wagner, & Chapman, 1992). Research suggests that, in particular, parenting is an important predictor of children’s prosocial behavior (Cook, Schoppe-Sullivan, Buckley, & Davis, 2009; Hastings, McShane, Parker, & Ladha, 2007; Schoppe-Sullivan, Weldon, Cook, Davis, & Buckley, 2009). In addition to parenting, research has suggested that the coparenting relationship interacts with parenting, as well as independently influences children’s social development (Feinberg, 2003; Gable, Crnic, & Belsky, 1994; Van Egeren & Hawkins, 2004). Children’s temperament may be an important influence on the development of prosocial behavior (Hay & Cook, 2007; Rothbart, 2007; Rothbart & Bates, 2006; Young, Fox, & Zahn-Waxler, 1999). Utilizing data from the Toddlers Into Kindergarteners Emotion Study (TIKES), the current study examined the effects of parenting, coparenting, and children’s temperament on children’s emerging prosocial behavior. Results revealed a pattern in which coparenting cooperation was positively associated with children’s prosocial behavior. This pattern highlights the important role of a cooperative coparenting subsystem, above and beyond the parenting subsystem, in influencing children’s emerging prosocial behavior within the family. Significant interactions between positive parenting practices and cooperative coparenting behaviors also emerged. These results highlight the importance of the association between positive parenting practices and children’s prosocial development within the context of cooperative coparenting behaviors. Overall, this study demonstrates the importance of understanding family processes, beyond the parenting relationship, that contribute to children’s prosocial development.