The development of prosocial behaviour in early childhood: Contributions of early parenting and self-regulation.


This research considers the role of parenting practices and early self-regulation, on children’s prosocial behaviour when they begin school. Data for 4007 children were drawn from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). The analyses explored relations between self-reported parenting practices for mothers and fathers, using scales for parenting warmth and hostility, and parent report on children’s emotional and attentional regulation at 2-3 years. Teacher reports for prosocial behaviour were obtained when children were 6-7 years. Maternal and paternal non-hostile parenting and warmth made significant, indirect contributions to later prosocial development, through influencing children’s early self-regulation. These findings inform understandings about the intergenerational pathways through which children’s self-regulation influences prosocial skills. Responsive caregiving by parents, and by adults in early childhood education programs, supports the development of early self-regulation. This, in turn, enables children to take greater advantage of the learning opportunities afforded to them at home and in early childhood education programs. Support for early self-regulation can offset effects of child and family risk factors on children’s later development.