The Developing Relationship between Gender and Prosocial Behaviour

Ben Hine

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis reports a programme of research which explored the gender-typing of prosocial behaviour by children and adolescents aged six- to eighteen-years old. In Study 1, children rated whether they believed girls or boys were more likely to perform prosocial behaviour. Results showed that across all ages, girls were thought of as more likely to perform prosocial actions, and this effect strengthened in adolescence. These results suggest that we can view prosocial behaviour as female-typed. Study 2 explored how varying the gender of the performer of prosocial behaviour might affect moral judgements of these actions. Results showed that at 12-13 years, participants judged prosocial behaviour by boys as ‘less good’ than at other ages. At this age, boys may be judged less positively due to the social knowledge about prosocial behaviour being female-typed. Studies 3 and 4 explored how the gender-typing of prosocial behaviour may change across adolescence, using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods. Both results from a masculinity-femininity questionnaire and focus group discussions revealed that, from 12-13 years onwards, prosocial behaviours could be female- or male-typed. Furthermore, results revealed that behaviours were classified as such based on how they corresponded to broader gender role characteristics. Finally, Study 5 investigated how adolescents’ gender beliefs about prosocial behaviour predicted their reports of performing those actions, with results showing that beliefs were indeed strong and accurate predictors of reports. It is concluded that prosocial behaviour is subject to categorisation by gender, and is related to gender throughout development. A summary of findings in Chapter 8 outlines this changing relationship, and implications for this area of research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Leman, Patrick, Supervisor
Award date1 Oct 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


  • gender
  • prosocial behaviour
  • childhood
  • adolescence
  • moral

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