Helpfulness and the Development of Competence in Adolescence

K. T. Call, J. T. Mortimer, M. J. Shanahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Using data from a representative panel of 1,000 Minnesota youth, this paper explores “helpfulness” in 2 spheres of adolescents' lives: the home and paid work settings. We examine the social structural conditions under which helpful behaviors are elicited, the interrelations of helpfulness and competence across 2 years of middle adolescence, and whether social circumstances moderate the effects of helpfulness on competence. Both boys' and girls' helpfulness in the home is responsive to family need. Furthermore, helpfulness at work and girls' competence are reciprocally related. We find evidence that the effects of helpfulness depend on the helper's motivations and the act's meaning, as shaped by the social context. Girls' competence is diminished by helpfulness in the home under conditions of poor father‐daughter relationships and coercive maternal control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-138
Number of pages10
JournalChild development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1995


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