Prosocial Behaviour and Psychopathology: An Eleven Year Longitudinal Study of Inter- and Intra-Individual Reciprocal Relations Across Childhood and Adolescence

Madison K. Memmott-Elison, Umar Toseeb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study investigated whether prosocial behaviour and emotional problems, peer problems, conduct problems, and hyperactivity and inattention problems were long-term longitudinally and bidirectionally related at inter- and or intra-individual levels from early childhood through mid-adolescence. Parents in the United Kingdom reported their child’s prosocial behaviour and multidimensional psychopathology at ages 3, 5, 7, 11, and 14 years (N = 16,984, 51% male, 83% White). Four random intercepts cross-lagged panel models were fitted. Higher levels of earlier prosocial behaviour were associated with greater than expected decrements in psychopathology. At an intra-individual, within-person level, prosocial behaviour was negatively bidirectionally associated with peer, conduct, and hyperactivity and inattention problems. Also at an intra-individual, within-person level, prosocial behaviour was unidirectionally protective against emotional problems. At an inter-individual level, prosocial behaviour and each dimension of psychopathology were negatively associated. Therefore, engaging in prosocial behaviour can reduce psychopathological symptoms over time (and vice versa), and youth who are more prosocial also tend to experience fewer psychopathological symptoms. Intra-individual associations were small while inter-individual associations were moderate to large. Implications for theory, future research, and evidence-based interventions are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1982-1996
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number4
Early online date12 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2023

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© The Author(s), 2022.

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