Introduction to the special issue on prosociality in adult development and aging: Advancing theory within a multilevel framework.

Phoebe E. Bailey, Natalie C. Ebner, Elizabeth A.L. Stine-Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prosociality refers to a broad set of behavioral, motivational, cognitive, affective, and social processes that contribute to, and/or are focused on, the welfare of others. This overview summarizes 10 articles included in the special issue on this topic. In discussing this research relative to existing theories, we situate this work within Penner et al.’s (Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 2005, 365–392) multilevel framework that recognizes distinct yet integrated levels of analysis to characterize micro- (i.e., intraindividual), meso- (i.e., interpersonal), and macro- (i.e., sociocultural and organizational contexts) level effects. While there is some evidence for lifespan continuity in prosocial dispositions at the micro level, the influences of long-term learning and socialization processes at the meso and macro levels are likely to be maximized in older age. Aside from formal voluteering, the adult lifespan development of prosociality has only recently received attention, especially with respect to influences beyond the micro level. This special issue encompasses research examining developmental change and stability in prosociality that collectively cuts across levels of analysis to inform theories in both adult development and aging and prosociality more generally. We propose future directions that take an integrative approach to understanding the development of prosociality by considering interactions among micro, meso, and macro levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • altruism
  • cooperation
  • goal orientation
  • prosociality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Social Psychology
  • Aging


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