The impact of school culture on adolescents' prosocial motivation

Lisa Beth Markman, Fordham University


The purposes of this study were to increase understanding of adolescent prosocial behaviors and moral motivations and to examine the contextual (school) and individual (person and demographic) factors that influence their expression. Turiel's (1983) model of social development was used because it recognizes moral justifications and states that individuals typically classify situations into one of three domains (moral, conventional, or personal). Results of this study indicate that adolescents engage in prosocial behavior both in school and with their peers. Students who attended the Just Community School used significantly more moral motivations in describing their reasons for engaging in academic activities than did comparable students in the traditional high school in the same community. In addition, students from the Just Community School rated all aspects of their school culture as significantly more moral than students from the traditional high school. In terms of helping, students who engaged in a helping task rated their own school culture as more moral and self-esteem was the sole variable to predict helping. Results showed that adolescents typically classify their behaviors as having personal reasoning. However, students also showed that they were capable of utilizing moral motivations to justify, their positive behaviors. Therefore, society, and particularly education systems need to focus on stimulating these moral capabilities, so that we can work on increasing their prosocial behaviors as they move from adolescence into and through adulthood.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Markman, Lisa Beth, "The impact of school culture on adolescents' prosocial motivation" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3037223.