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Psychology Glossary of Terms

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Altruism

Definition:
Concern for the welfare of others that is expressed through prosocial acts such as sharing, helping, and co-operating.
 
Background:
Children begin to develop altruistic behaviours at around the age of 2, or even a bit younger, and these behaviours increase as they get older. Altruistic behaviour becomes more common from the early elementary school years up through pre-adolescence. There is a modest correlation between a child's altruism and his/her level of moral reasoning. Specifically, children who show more advanced levels of moral reasoning are typically more helpful and concerned about other children.
 
Further Reading:

Eisenberg, N., Miller, P. A., Shell, R., McNalley, S., & Shea, C. (1991). Prosocial development in adolescence: A longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology. 27, 849-857.

Rushton, J. P., Fulker, D. W., Neale, M. C., Nias, D. K. B., & Eysenck, H. J. (1986). Altruism and aggression: The heritability of individual differences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 50, 283-305.

Underwood, B., & Moore, B. (1982). Perspective taking and altruism. Psychological Bulletin. 91, 143-173.

Van Hasselt, V. B., & Hersen, M. (Eds.) (1992). Handbook of social development: A lifespan perspective. New York: Plenum.

Whiting, B. B., & Edwards, C. P. (1988). Children of different worlds: The formation of social behaviour. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press.

 
Self-Instructional Resources:
Take a 1-item self-test over this concept.

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