A psychological perspective on the development of caring in children and youth: The role of the family

P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale*, Lauren S. Wakschlag, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


The construct of “caring” has not been a top priority as a programmatic line of research, field of inquiry, or way of thinking about youth. While the study of caring is a newly emerging field within psychology, a number of related areas of research enable us to develop a definition and draw conclusions about how families promote the development of caring individuals. By pulling together diverse literatures, the construct of caring here is used to answer the question, “how do families engender caring in children and youth?”. First, the precursors to caring in adolescence are examined through the emergence of psychological components during infancy, early, and middle childhood. Families are instrumental in the promotion of caring through processes such as attachment, peer relationships, prosocial behavior, empathy, agency, and self-control. Second, caring behavior in adolescence is explored focusing on the influence of parenting styles, gender differences, and caring on adolescent well-being. At this stage, family patterns that have promoted caring should continue, yet they should be transformed so that adolescents emerge as separate young adults with reciprocal and close affectional ties with their families. Last, risk and protective factors in the development of caring care discussed. Obstacles to caring include poverty, marital distress, and parental psychopathology that can result in emotional disorders, problem behaviors, failure in school, isolation and rejection from peers, and disaffection from society. Despite these stressors, numerous adolescents develop into caring individuals. Protective factors include temperament, cognitive abilities, self-efficacy, as well as close relationships within the family and social support. A model of the processes underlying caring and the associations among processes is proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-556
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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