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Pathways to PeaceThe Transformative Power of Children and Families$
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James F. Leckman, Catherine Panter-Brick, and Rima Salah

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027984

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027984.001.0001

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Prosocial Development and Situational Morality

Prosocial Development and Situational Morality

Neurobiological, Parental, and Contextual Factors

(p.161) 10 Prosocial Development and Situational Morality
Pathways to Peace

Marinus H. van IJzendoorn

Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg

The MIT Press

Prosocial behavior is any voluntary behavior intended to benefit others, and it is one of the potential contributions that an individual can make toward a more peaceful world. This chapter discusses neurobiological, parental, and situational factors that can shape the prosocial behavior of children. It reviews emerging prosocial and antisocial behavior in infancy and asks whether prosociality is inborn or obtained through socialization by parents. Twin studies suggest a considerable genetic component in prosociality, but current molecular genetic studies fail to support this outcome. Studies on gene-environment interaction, in particular on differential susceptibility, might be more promising as the influence of the family and wider social context on prosocial development seems undeniable. Hormonal influences on prosocial behavior have recently been studied using intranasal oxytocin administration, and some studies on prosociality related to neural activity and brain morphology in children have become available. This chapter ends with some thoughts and findings on situational morality. Environmental “nudges” might play a more important role than is currently acknowledged in child development research and theories of prosociality. Published in the Strungmann Forum Reports Series.

Keywords:   infant prosociality, gene-environment interactions, oxytocin, brain morphology in children

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