Adolescent development is often regarded as a period of social sensitivities, given that brain development continues into the early 20s in interplay with social experiences. In this review, we present adolescence as a unique window for prosocial development; that is, behavior that benefits others. We present evidence for multiple pathways of neural sensitivity that contribute to key developmental processes related to prosocial behaviors, including valuing, perspective taking, and goal-flexibility. Yet, these processes are dependent on several contextual factors including recipients, audience effects, and strategic motivations. Next, we present intervention findings suggesting that prosocial experiences within these various contexts are crucial for adolescents developing into engaged and contributing members of society. These findings suggest a new interpretation of the elevated socio-affective sensitivity and emerging socio-cognitive development in adolescence, focusing on opportunities rather than risks.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
E.A.C. is supported by an "innovative ideas" grant of the European Research Council (ERC CoG PROSOCIAL 681632 to E.A.C.). We thank Iris Langereis for helping with the illustrations.
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