Reparative Prosocial Behavior Difficulties across Childhood Predict Poorer Social Functioning and Depression in Adolescence

Meghan Rose Donohue, Rebecca Tillman, Joan Luby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Difficulty using reparative behaviors (i.e., prosocial behaviors that individuals use after they have transgressed to cause another’s distress) has been concurrently associated with poorer social functioning and both internalizing and externalizing disorders in children and adults. Despite these associations, no study has examined social and psychological outcomes of children who display consistently low levels of reparative behaviors across childhood. This study used established developmental trajectories of reparative behaviors that span preschool through early adolescence (low-stable, moderate-stable, and high-stable) to predict social and psychological outcomes in adolescence (N = 129). Membership in trajectories characterized by lower levels of reparative behaviors predicted greater social rejection, social withdrawal, aggression, and symptoms of depression in adolescence, even when controlling for baseline levels of each outcome. Membership in the low-stable reparative trajectory also significantly mediated the relationship between high levels of guilt in preschool and greater depression severity in adolescence. Findings suggest that children who display persistently low levels of reparative behaviors may be at-risk for a variety of poorer social and emotional outcomes. Further, preschoolers who display both high levels of guilt and low levels of reparative behaviors may be at particularly high risk for depression recurrence in adolescence. Thus, interventions that teach young children reparative skills and/or promote approach rather than avoidance after transgressions may have important implications for preventing a wide range of poorer social and emotional outcomes in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020

Keywords

  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Reparative behavior
  • Social functioning

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