The Development of Capacity for Altruism as a Function of Object Relations Development and Vicissitudes

Part of the Critical Issues in Social Justice book series (BLSC, volume 31)


The aim of this chapter is to explore the potential contribution of significant others to altruism in the course of development. Examination of definitions of altruism demonstrates a feature common to most of them, namely, a reference to an interpersonal event, taking place between an actor and another person. For example: Altruism “refers to a regard for the interest of others without concern for one’s self-interest” (Wispé, 1978). Another recent example: “Altruism may be defined as social behavior carried out to achieve positive outcomes for another rather than for the seif” (Rushton, 1980, p. 10). Such definitions lead us to examine the relations of person to other as a basis for the development of in altruism. Thus in this chapter I shall discuss the origin of altruistic motivation based on self-other relations. In discussing self-other relations, the term object will be borrowed from the psychoanalytic literature. The object (or love object) is a significant other (mother, spouse, etc), either a real one or an iternatized one. I shall attempt to delineate milestones in the development of object relations and their reflection in the development of altruism. Individual differences in the quality of altruistic behavior will be presented in light of quality and level of object relations achieved in adulthood.


Object Relation Interpersonal Relation Significant Object Altruistic Behavior Altruistic Motivation 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHaifa UniversityHaifaIsrael

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