Schools as context for prosocial purpose development

Heather Malin
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This study examines school-context factors that may influence development of prosocial purpose in early adolescence. Prosocial purpose is vital to individual well-being and healthy communities, yet little is known about how it develops in young people. Educators and developmental scientists seek to understand how prosocial purpose develops, and whether it can be supported by school-based activities, classroom interventions, and teacher support. This longitudinal study explores some aspects of the school context that could influence development of two components of purpose: 1) setting prosocial goals, and 2) commitment to those goals. We measured these two components and how they were impacted by three school-based factors: 1) The school attended, 2) Goal supports provided by the school, and 3) a purpose interview that could be administered as an intervention. Findings suggest that school supports for prosocial goals do consistently predict prosocial purpose in early adolescence, but there are likely other factors in the school environment that promote and hinder purpose development.

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