The Social Psychology of Good and Evil

By Arthur G. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16
SOCIAL SUPPORT AND BEHAVIOR
TOWARD OTHERS

Some Paradoxes and Some Directions

THOMAS ASHBY WILLS

JODY A RESKO

In this chapter we consider how social relationships provide a context that shapes adolescents’ behavior toward others. Although altruism or aggression may be related to the dispositional characteristics of an individual and to the institutional environment in which he or she operates, a person's social relationships can be important factors shaping the orientations that influence behavior toward others in positive or negative directions.

Social support from parents is a major protective factor for adolescents, inversely related to substance use and positively related to psychological well-being (Wills, Blechman, & McNamara, 1996; Wills & Filer, 2001). Here we suggest that a history of supportive relationships within the family is related to patterns of active coping that promote prosocial behavior, whereas social conflict and rejection by parents are related to patterns of maladaptive coping that are conducive to antisocial behavior. We discuss this thesis from the perspective of epidemiological research with representative samples of adolescents and consider how support from peers may have different effects from parental support.

Adolescence is a period of particular relevance for the development of altruistic or aggressive behavior. Between the ages of 11 and 18 years, adolescents go through several major life transitions and shift from a situation

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