Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 581–591 | Cite as

The Impact of Maternal Relationship Quality on Emerging Adults’ Prosocial Tendencies: Indirect Effects via Regulation of Prosocial Values

  • Carolyn McNamara Barry
  • Laura M. Padilla-Walker
  • Stephanie D. Madsen
  • Larry J. Nelson
Empirical Research


Studies document that parents serve as children’s primary socialization agents, particularly for moral development and prosocial behavior; however, less is known regarding parental influences on prosocial outcomes during the transition to adulthood. The purpose of this study was to investigate how mother–child relationship quality was related to prosocial tendencies via emerging adults’ regulation of prosocial values. Participants included 228 undergraduate students (ranging from 18 to 25 years; 90% European American) and their mothers (ranging from 38 to 59 years) from four locations across the United States. Path analyses using structural equation modeling revealed that mother–child relationship quality was related to emerging adults’ regulation of prosocial values, which was, in turn, related to emerging adults’ prosocial tendencies. Specifically, emerging adults who reported higher levels of internal regulation of prosocial values were more likely to report prosocial tendencies that de-emphasized themselves, and were less likely to report prosocial tendencies for the approval of others.


Prosocial behavior Regulation of prosocial values Parent–child relationship quality Emerging adulthood 



The authors wish to thank Kevin Hughes for his early work on this manuscript in reviewing relevant literature and data analyses. The authors are also grateful for the statistical help of Joe Olsen and Jeremy Yorgason. We also express appreciation to the instructors and participants at all Project READY data collection sites for their assistance. The authors also are grateful to the junior faculty sabbatical grant given to the first author by Loyola College in Maryland and the grant support of the Family Studies Center at Brigham Young University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carolyn McNamara Barry
    • 1
  • Laura M. Padilla-Walker
    • 2
  • Stephanie D. Madsen
    • 3
  • Larry J. Nelson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLoyola College in MarylandBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Brigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  3. 3.McDaniel CollegeWestminsterUSA

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