Is it bad to be good? An exploration of aggressive and prosocial behavior subtypes in adolescence

Paul Boxer, Marie S. Tisak, Sara E. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Research in aggressive behavior development has distinguished between proactive (i.e., intended to achieve an instrumental goal) and reactive (i.e., emitted as an emotional response to provocation) subtypes of aggression. A similar distinction has not been made with regard to prosocial behavior. In this study, subtypes of both aggressive and prosocial behavior and their relation to aggression-supporting social cognitions were examined in a sample of 250 early and middle adolescents. Adolescents completed behavior rating scales and a measure of their beliefs about the acceptability of responding aggressively. Principal components analysis identified 3 subtypes of aggressive and prosocial behavior: aggressive, prosocial, and proactive prosocial. Proactive prosocial behavior was positively correlated with aggression and aggression-supporting beliefs, while other prosocial behavior was negatively correlated with these constructs. Findings are discussed in the context of aggressive behavior development and with regard to traditional views of prosocial behavior as altruistic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Aggression
  • Normative/acceptability beliefs
  • Prosocial behavior


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