The Effects of Relationship Trust on Prosocial Intentions and Behavior in Adolescents: Exploring the Role of Empathy and Exploration Behavior

Publication Date



Based on attachment theory, in this current study it was proposed that the degree of trust which characterizes adolescents' relationships with parents and peers may affect the development of prosocial intentions and volunteer behavior. The current empirical study explored the role of empathy and exploration behavior as possible mediators in this model for the 612 urban adolescent participants. Using bootstrap methodology, the results indicated that empathy partially mediated the effect of peer trust on prosocial intentions and fully mediated the effect of peer trust on volunteer behavior. These results suggested that empathy plays an important role in prosocial development and that peer relationships may help support empathy. This study provided an important understanding of the relation between relationship trust and prosocial outcomes because it highlights the importance of empathy and peer relationships, furthering the understanding of the mechanisms through which attachment may affect the caregiving system. An unexpected result was the non-significant direct effect between parent trust and volunteer behavior as most of the prior empirical literature supported this direct relationship. The need to focus on the development of strong peer relationships in clinical and program settings was discussed, along with directions for further study.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

King, Pamela E.

Document Type





Adolescent psychotherapy, Empathy, Curiosity, Interpersonal relations in adolescence, Trust, Social Behavior




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