Examining the predictors of prosocial behavior in chinese adolescents using a socialecological model

Frank H.Y. Lai, Man Hong Andrew Siu, Tan Lei Shek

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Why do some young people help others, while others do not? What are the driving force in motivating them in helping others and volunteering? Are the mechanisms that shape prosocial behavior in Chinese adolescents in Hong Kong similar as in western and developed countries? To answer these questions, this study analyzed the development of prosocial behavior and helping intention using a socialecological perspective. We would present research findings which identify cognitive and social predictors of prosocial behavior and helping intention in two studies with Chinese population in Hong Kong. Based on the social-ecological model, this study hypothesized that several variables in individual competence and social influence are good predictors of prosocial behavior and helping intention among Chinese adolescents in Hong Kong. At the individual level, empathy and moral reasoning have long been identified as key individual areas of competence shaping the development of prosocial behavior in adolescents. At the social level, three aspects of social influence are expected to be associated with prosocial behavior, including peers' relationships, role modeling by parents, and the influence of school socialization. In the first phase of study, we recruited a convenient sample of 518 high school students, whom were from Secondary 4 to 6, from a major inter-school event. Gender differences were found in prosocial norms, pragmatic values, prosocial reasoning and empathy-related constructs. Correlation analyses showed that parental education, prosocial norms, pragmatic values, moral reasoning and empathy were related to prosocial behavior. Regression analyses showed that prosocial norms, pragmatic values and two aspects of empathy (personal distress and empathy) were key predictors of prosocial behavior. Other than the negative relationship between personal distress and prosocial behavior, other findings are largely consistent with theoretical predictions and previous research findings in western countries. This part of study in general population underscored the importance of values and norms in predicting prosocial behavior, which has been largely neglected in previous studies. In the second phase of study, we studied subjects with prosocial characteristics - those who participated in at least one volunteer activity regularly outside school hours for the past two years. Results showed that social influence factors, including peers influence, school influence and parents influence, were strong predictors of prosocial behavior, while cognitive factors like empathy and prosocial moral reasoning were not. Unlike the findings from the convenient sample in first phase of study, gender differences in prosocial subjects were not found. The only exception is that males showed a significant difference from females regarding parents influence. These findings indicated that social influence is more strongly linked to prosocial behavior. The study implied that modeling, socialization and social support for prosocial norms and behavior could exert a powerful influence on the prosocial behavior of young people in a Chinese population.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVolunteering
Subtitle of host publicationAttitudes, Social Influences and Gender Differences
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9781536131895
ISBN (Print)9781536131888
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Chinese adolescents
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Social-ecological model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Examining the predictors of prosocial behavior in chinese adolescents using a socialecological model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this