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J Genet Psychol. 2007 Jun;168(2):177-200.

Ready to make nice: parental socialization of young sons' and daughters' prosocial behaviors with peers.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


In this study, the authors examined the extent to which maternal and paternal parenting styles, cognitions, and behaviors were associated with young girls' and boys' more compassionate (prototypically feminine) and more agentic (prototypically masculine) prosocial behaviors with peers. Parents of 133 preschool-aged children reported on their authoritative parenting style, attributions for children's prosocial behavior, and responses to children's prosocial behavior. Approximately 6 months later, children's more feminine and more masculine prosocial behaviors were observed during interactions with unfamiliar peers and reported on by their preschool teachers. Boys and girls did not differ in the observed and teacher-reported measures of prosocial behavior. Compared to other parents, fathers of boys were less likely to express affection or respond directly to children's prosocial behavior. Mothers' authoritative style, internal attributions for prosocial behavior, and positive responses to prosocial behavior predicted girls' displays of more feminine prosocial actions and boys' displays of more masculine prosocial actions toward peers. Relations were similar but weaker for fathers' parenting, and after accounting for mother' scores, fathers' scores accounted for unique variance in only one analysis: Teachers reported more masculine prosocial behavior in boys of fathers who discussed prosocial behavior. Overall, the results support a model of parental socialization of sex-typed prosocial behavior and indicate that mothers contribute more strongly than do fathers to both daughters' and sons' prosocial development.

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