Avoiding antisocial behavior among adolescents: The positive influence of classmates’ prosocial behavior is a new and potentially very intriguing study.

It finds that positive student behavior in the classroom can have a powerful influence on encouraging others to act positively.

Of course, that’s nothing new to teachers – we obviously see all the time how a classroom atmosphere can influence student behavior for good or for ill.

But this study may hold a particularly interesting nugget if I’m reading it correctly, and I may very well not be (I’ve written to the study’s author for clarification).

The excerpt at the top of this post, and this line in the study, seems to me that it’s suggesting that positive student behavior can be more powerful on peers than “antisocial behavior”:

Hereby our finding of an effect of prosocial peer norms over and above antisocial peer norms suggests that building up prosocial behaviors in the classroom may be a promising approach for the prevention of antisocial behavior.

If I’m wrong in my interpretation, this research can still be useful in the lessons I’m doing to help students recognize the impact their actions can have on their classmates (see The Best Resources On Developing A Sense Of Community In The Classroom).

If I’m right in my interpretation, it could make for an even more powerful lesson.

Let me know what your “take” is on the study’s results.  Unfortunately, the full study is behind a paywall, but there are still ways to access it.

I’ll update this post if and when I hear back from the author….

ADDENDUM: I did receive this response from Verena Hofmann, the lead author of the study:

Yes, in our study the effect of peer prosocial behavior was stronger than the effect of peer antisocial behavior.

However, it was a non-experimental study.

To draw causal conclusions about the positive effect of prosocial behavior, intervention studies with treatment and control group are needed.