Parental and Genetic Contributions to Prosocial Behavior During Childhood

Keren Fortuna, Ariel Knafo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Considering the multidimensionality of prosocial behavior, this chapter reviews findings on genetic and environmental influences according to the type of prosocial behavior assessed, the methodology used, children’s age, and the target of prosocial act. Across and within studies, heritability estimates are shown to vary as a function of the above criteria. Specifically, different types of prosocial behavior and empathy are differentially heritable; genetic effects on parent-reported questionnaires are higher than on observational measures of prosocial behavior; heritability estimates increase with age, and are stronger in children’s responses toward an examiner as compared to the mother. In addition, molecular-genetic research points to specific genes which are involved in prosocial behavior, and which moderate parenting-prosocial behavior associations. Suggestions for future directions include a call for additional longitudinal, genetically-sensitive designs to study the processes underlying genetic influences, as well as gene-environment correlations and interactions on the various forms of prosocial behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProsocial Development
Subtitle of host publication A Multidimensional Approach
EditorsLaura M. Padilla-Walker, Gustavo Carlo
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199964772
StatePublished - 2014


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