Faculté des lettres

Avoiding antisocial behavior among adolescents : The positive influence of classmates’ prosocial behavior

Hofmann, Verena ; Müller, Christoph Michael

In: Journal of Adolescence, 2018, vol. 68, p. 136-145

Introduction. Prior research has shown that classmates’ behavior serves as a descriptive norm for adolescents’ individual behavior. While earlier studies primarily focused on negative peer influence, classmates’ prosocial behavior might be associated with positive individual development. We hypothesized more classroom-level prosocial behavior predicts a lower likelihood of future antisocial... More

Add to personal list
    Summary
    Introduction. Prior research has shown that classmates’ behavior serves as a descriptive norm for adolescents’ individual behavior. While earlier studies primarily focused on negative peer influence, classmates’ prosocial behavior might be associated with positive individual development. We hypothesized more classroom-level prosocial behavior predicts a lower likelihood of future antisocial behavior of individual students over and above the effect of classmates’ antisocial behavior. We further assumed this effect is mediated by adolescents’ attitudes toward antisocial behavior. Methods. To test our hypotheses, we used three data collection points from a longitudinal study among lower secondary school students in Switzerland (N = 864; mean age at T1: 13.81 years; male gender: 52%). Participants completed self-reported assessments on prosocial behavior, antisocial behavior, and antisocial attitudes. Data were analyzed using multilevel models. Results. Results indicated higher levels of prosocial behavior among classmates predict lower levels of individual students’ future antisocial behavior. However, the effect of classmates’ prosocial behavior was not mediated by individual attitudes toward antisocial behavior. Conclusions. While in the context of antisocial behavior the peer group is often assumed a risk, our results indicate that school peers can also exert positive influence. Hereby our finding of an effect of prosocial peer norms over and above antisocial peer norms suggests that building up prosocial behaviors in the classroom may be a promising approach for the prevention of antisocial behavior.