Perspective-taking and prosocial moral reasoning: Their relationship to prosocial moral behavior in children

Judah A Horwitz, Pace University


This study investigated prosocial behavior as it relates to three distinct perspective-taking abilites (perceptual, conceptual, and affective) as well as prosocial moral reasoning level in kindergarteners, second graders, and fourth graders. It was expected that (1) skill in each variable would increase with grade level; (2) prosocial moral behavior would increase with grade level, and; (3) correlations among the variables and prosocial moral behavior would increase with grade level. Fifty-nine subjects from kindergarten, second grade, and fourth grade were assessed in terms of these variables as they relate to prosocial moral behavior. Perceptual perspective-taking was measured by three visual orientation tasks developed by Flavell and Zahn-Waxler and Radke-Yarrow. Conceptual perspective-taking was measured by four tasks also developed by these authors with minor modifications by the researcher. These tasks assessed the child's awareness of the preferences and needs of others (e.g., selecting a birthday gift for a parent). Affective perspective-taking was measured using Borke's Interpersonal Awareness Test. Prosocial moral reasoning levels were obtained with Eisenberg-Berg's Prosocial Moral Reasoning Stories. Children were exposed to two contrived prosocial moral behaviors involving helping another and donating charity. ANOVAs assessed significant group mean differences, while Pearson correlations were utilized to assess correlations among variables between and across grades. Multiple regressions analyzed predictability of prosocial behavior by select variables that correlated significantly with those behaviors. Findings indicated significant age effects for two of the three perspective-taking abilities (perceptual and affective), as well as prosocial moral reasoning and prosocial moral behavior. Unexpected ceiling effects were found on all conceptual perspective-taking measures and two of three perceptual perspective-taking tasks. No systematic, significant correlational increases were found between prosocial moral behavior and perspective-taking ability. Similarly, prosocial moral behavior and prosocial moral reasoning level were not found to correlate significantly as a function of grade level. Finally, it was determined that children's affective perspective-taking ability (specifically the capacity to recognize that an individual is afraid in a situation) and prosocial moral reasoning level had a limited predictive value (17.2 percent) for the performance of the donating behavior.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Horwitz, Judah A, "Perspective-taking and prosocial moral reasoning: Their relationship to prosocial moral behavior in children" (1989). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9015213.



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