Do Self-Control and Parental Involvement Promote Prosociality and Hinder Internalizing Problems? A Four-Wave Longitudinal Study from Early to Mid-to-Late Adolescence


Fabiola Silletti, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy.
Nicolò Maria Iannello, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.
Sonia Ingoglia, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.
Cristiano Inguglia, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.
Rosalinda Cassibba, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy.
Manuel Eisner, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Denis Ribeaud, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Pasquale Musso, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy.


Early adolescence represents a crucial period in human development marked by the confluence of biological, psychological, and social changes and challenges (Blum et al., 2014). By virtue of these peculiarities, early adolescence is sometimes thought to be a critical phase for the onset of both positive and negative outcomes in later years, such as prosociality (Blakemore, 2012) and internalizing problems (e.g., Maldonado et al., 2013; Mojtabai et al., 2016).

Prosociality is related to both health and psychological well-being (e.g., Carlo et al., 2012), whereas internalizing problems in adolescence can have negative impacts on social-emotional development and health with possible repercussions in later stages of life, including the likelihood that internalizing problems persist into adulthood (see Clayborne et al., 2021).

Given the foregoing, it becomes crucial to identify factors that might promote prosociality and hinder internalizing problems. This would support adolescents’ adaptive developmental trajectories as well as implement prevention and early intervention efforts against psychopathology, with important implications for public health.

Particularly, self-control and parental involvement are two factors, at the individual and family level, respectively, that have been shown to be associated with prosociality (e.g., Ng-Knight et al., 2016; Padilla-Walker & Christensen, 2011) and internalizing problems (e.g., Augustine et al., 2022; Oliva et al., 2019).

However, previous work has some limitations, including cross-sectional study design, small sample sizes, and focus solely on either self-control or parental involvement. Yet, studying prosociality and internalizing problems simultaneously might be worthy of consideration given that contemporary extensions of risk and resilience theory suggest that prosocial behavior may act as the “ordinary magic” that leads to everyday resilience, including fewer problematic outcomes, during adolescence and beyond (Masten, 2001; see Memmott-Elison et al., 2020). Accordingly, further investigations into these issues are needed.

In light of the above, the present study investigated the longitudinal associations of self-control and parental involvement with prosociality and internalizing problems from early to mid-to-late adolescence, within a risk and resilience and a developmental cascade framework.


We used a panel design (i.e., four measurement times at 2-year intervals from 2008 onwards) to examine data on 1523 Swiss adolescents when they were aged about 11, 13, 15, and 17. Self-reported measures of self-control (Longshore et al. 1996), parental involvement (Alabama Parenting Questionnaire; Shelton et al., 1996), prosociality, anxiety, and depression (Murray et al. 2019) were used in this study. A cross-lagged analytical approach was applied to respond to our purpose.


Results showed that parental involvement promotes later levels of prosociality from early to mid-to-late adolescence. Furthermore, we observed that parental involvement predicted later improvements in self-control and that prosociality and internalizing problems mutually and positively predicted each other during the same period.


Our findings suggest that interventions aimed at promoting positive parental involvement with their offspring may contribute to later adolescent prosociality and self-control and that health professionals should consider encouraging a healthy balance between self-interest and concern for others.

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