Prosocial actions are a building block for developing mature and caring social relations. However, the global pandemic may hamper adolescents’ prosocial actions. In this preregistered study, we examined the extent to which adolescents provided daily emotional support during the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 10–25-year-old high school and university students participated at three timepoints (N = 888 at the first timepoint (May 2020); 494 at the second timepoint (Nov 2020) and 373 at the third timepoint (May 2021)). At the first and second timepoint, participants completed 2 weeks of daily diaries on providing emotional support. At all timepoints, participants performed Dictator Games to measure giving to peers, friends and COVID-19 targets (medical doctors, COVID-19 patients, individuals with a poor immune system). Across the three timepoints, adolescents gave more to COVID-19 targets than peers and friends, but giving to COVID-19 target was highest in the beginning of the pandemic (first timepoint relative to second and third timepoint). Results from the first timepoint showed that emotional support directed to friends peaked in mid-adolescence, whereas emotional support towards family members showed a gradual increase from childhood to young adulthood. Furthermore, daily emotional support increased between the first and second timepoint. Daily emotional support to friends predicted giving behavior to all targets, whereas emotional support to family was specifically associated with giving to COVID-19 targets. These findings elucidate the relation between daily actions and prosocial giving to societally-relevant targets in times of crisis, underlying the importance of prosocial experiences during adolescence.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was funded by the NWO Spinoza Prize (awarded to Eveline A. Crone) and the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 681632 to E.A.C).
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