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This 3-year longitudinal study examined children's engagement and refusals to be prosocial between siblings and friends from early to middle childhood. At each of two time points, 44 children (M age = 4.56 years at Time 1 [T1]) were video-recorded in one play session with a sibling and one with a friend. Children's helping or refusals to help and sharing or refusals to share and their strategies to refuse prosociality were coded. Findings revealed that prosocial refusals were as frequent as prosocial actions between siblings and friends. Children were more likely to refuse to be prosocial with their sibling especially for sharing and through verbal refusals. Children used verbal refusals more at T1, whereas they used passive refusal more at T2. Verbal and nonverbal refusals were used more to refuse sharing, whereas passive refusal was used more to refuse helping. This study highlighted the importance of prosocial refusals in the development of prosociality in the context of close relationships.


Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 4, pp. 421–446. doi: 10.13110/merrpalmquar 1982.66.4.0421