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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2012, Article ID 832026, 7 pages
Review Article

Prosocial Norms as a Positive Youth Development Construct: A Conceptual Review

1Department of Rehabilitation Science, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
2Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
3Department of Social, Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Received 15 August 2011; Accepted 20 September 2011

Academic Editor: Joav Merrick

Copyright © 2012 Andrew M. H. Siu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Prosocial norms like reciprocity, social responsibility, altruism, and volunteerism are ethical standards and beliefs that youth development programs often want to promote. This paper reviews evolutionary, social-cognitive, and developmental theories of prosocial development and analyzes how young people learn and adopt prosocial norms. The paper showed that very few current theories explicitly address the issue of how prosocial norms, in form of feelings of moral obligations, may be challenged by a norm of self-interest and social circumstances when prosocial acts are needed. It is necessary to develop theories which put prosocial norms as a central construct, and a new social cognitive theory of norm activation has the potential to help us understand how prosocial norms may be applied. This paper also highlights how little we know about young people perceiving and receiving prosocial norms and how influential of school policies and peer influence on the prosocial development. Lastly, while training of interpersonal competence (e.g., empathy, moral reasoning, etc.) was commonly used in the youth development, their effectiveness was not systematically evaluated. It will also be interesting to examine how computer and information technology or video games may be used in e-learning of prosocial norms.