Social Development

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Volume 28 Issue 2 (May 2019), Pages 253-498

Longitudinal relations of preschoolers’ dispositional and situational anger to their prosocial behavior: The moderating role of shyness (pages 383-397)

Abstract Generally, research on children’s anger and prosocial outcomes has been inconsistent, perhaps because researchers have overlooked nuances in children’s anger, such as whether the emotion is situational versus dispositional or is in response to blocked goals versus violations of moral principles (e.g., unfairness). Additionally, mixed findings may be due to potential moderators such as shyness. In this study, we investigated the unique relations of children’s (n = 192, 54.7% boys; Mage = 41.75 months) dispositional and situational anger in response to unfairness at 42 months old to their prosocial behavior toward strangers a year later. Further, we examined whether children’s shyness moderated the relations. Longitudinal models controlling for stability of the constructs showed that dispositional anger was unrelated to prosocial behavior whereas situational anger positively predicted later prosocial behavior. Further, children’s shyness moderated the relation between situational anger (but not dispositional anger) and prosocial behavior. For shy children, prosocial behavior toward strangers was low, regardless of anger; for those who were low or average in shyness, situational anger positively predicted prosocial behavior. The findings suggest that when children are not too shy to approach strangers, anger in response to unfairness may be an important precursor for later other‐oriented moral tendencies.

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