Prosocial behavior

Scale: Social-Emotional Character Development Scale (SECDS) – Prosocial Behavior subscale

What it measures:

  • Youth engagement in prosocial behavior with peers.

Intended age range: 6- to 11-year-olds.

Brief description: This measure consists of 6 items. Sample items include: “I am nice to kids who are different from me,” “I try to cheer up other kids if they are feeling sad,” and “I am a good friend to others.” Each item is rated on a 4 point scale: NO!, no, yes, and YES!

Rationale: This scale was selected based on its brevity, ease of administration, and evidence of good reliability and validity as well as sensitivity to effects of interventions. It is one of several scales in the SECDS—a comprehensive measure of social-emotional and character development.

Cautions: This measure was developed for use with elementary-school-age children; please consider in particular that the wording of the items that comprise the scale may not be appropriate for older youth. For example, the item, “I play nicely with others” may not be a salient descriptor of prosocial behavior for older youth.

Special administration information: None.

How to score: Each item is scored from 1 (NO!) to 4 (YES!). The total score is computed by averaging across all items.

Access and permissions: This scale is available for non-commercial use with no charge and can be obtained here. A ready-to-use version is also available here.

How to interpret findings: Higher scores on this measure reflect greater self-reported prosocial behavior.

Alternatives: The Informal Helping Youth Scale measures prosocial behavior across several contexts (e.g., home, school, community). It has good reliability across elementary, middle, and high-school-aged youth. This measure may be a good alternative for programs interested in assessing prosocial behaviors for a wide age range of youth. The measure and its documentation can be found here.


Citation: Ji, P., Flay, B. R., & DuBois, D. L. (2013). Social-Emotional and Character Development Scale: Development and initial validation with urban elementary school students. Journal of Research in Character Education, 9, 121–147. (Available here.)

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