Show Less
Restricted access

Development of Other-Regarding Preferences in Children and Adolescents

Katrin John

Other-regarding preferences, hence appreciation of others’ welfare, are mainly culturally transmitted, whereby most of the development takes place in the sensitive period of childhood and adolescence. This work analyzes the development as well as possible influencing factors of other-regarding preferences during this period. To test the hypotheses derived from developmental and socialization aspects, the author conducts a survey measuring altruistic and cooperative preferences for German pupils. Results show that over the age span studied altruism and cooperation are increasingly important. Individual differences show none or only small relationship with measures of other-regarding preferences while differences in school environments are similarly important to age differences.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access

1 Introduction


This dissertation analyzes the development of children’s and adolescents’ preferences for altruism and cooperation as well as possible influences during the process of preference formation. Altruism and cooperation are important drivers of human development. Relying on others’ assistance enables more individual specialization, which is an important source of economic development. Even before any early sharing economy was in place, humans displayed reciprocal altruism, which allowed surviving not only of the fittest, as the classical evolutionary theory puts it. Trivers (1971, p. 45) lists “(1) helping in times of danger (…); (2) sharing food; (3) helping the sick, the wounded, or the very young and old; (4) sharing implements; and (5) sharing knowledge” as important types of human reciprocal altruistic behavior. Axelrod and Hamilton (1981) apply game theory to document how cooperation is an evolutionary stable strategy in situations of a prisoner’s dilemma character, which characterizes the risk of unrequited cooperation. These biological foundations show that humans care about others’ outcomes, be it out of pure altruism or out of strategic considerations taking possible future benefits into account. These foundations of human behavior are summarized by the notion of other-regarding or social preferences.

Other-regarding preferences such as altruism, reciprocity, envy or spite have been recognized within early economic theory. As an example, in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”, Adam Smith outlines to great extent that human behavior is manifold and comprises much more than selfishness: “Generosity, humanity, kindness, compassion, (…), all the social and benevolent affections, (…), even towards those...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.