Prior research has indicated that an individual adolescent’s behavior is influenced by the behavior of his or her classmates. But while most studies have focused on negative peer influence, a study published in Journal of Adolescence investigates whether individual anti-social behaviors in adolescents can potentially be reduced by promoting prosocial behavior at the classroom level.
In order to determine whether classmates’ prosocial behavior is related to lower anti-social behavior of students, Verena Hofmann and Christoph Michael Müller conducted a longitudinal study among lower secondary school students in Switzerland (mean age = 13.8 years). The sample included 55 classrooms in eight schools, and the researchers analyzed data collected at the end of Grade 7, Grade 8, and Grade 9. Participants completed self-reported assessments on prosocial behavior, anti-social behavior, and anti-social attitudes. Classmates’ pro- and anti-social behavior for each student was calculated by averaging all students’ scores in a class, excluding the students’ own score. The findings showed that:
- Children generally developed more anti-social behavior over time, particularly those who had higher initial levels of anti-social behavior.
- More prosocial behavior among classmates predicted lower levels of individual anti-social behavior and anti-social attitudes in the future.
The authors suggested that these results were informative since the study focused on the influence of behavior among all classmates rather than just personal friends and showed classmates could exert positive influence on behavior.