Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

David A. Reuman


While some suggest that humans are fundamentally driven towards ruthless or self-serving behaviors as a means of promoting their genetic characteristics throughout the larger population, others suggest that other-oriented behaviors emerge just as naturally. Despite the immediate advantages of acting selfishly, acting prosocially results in long-term health benefits (e.g., reducing mortality rates) while enhancing psychological functioning. Theorists have suggested that one psychological advantage is an augmented sense of purpose that a helper may identify in his or her life. This study examines the process by which urban, Hartford-residing, youth develop meaning in their lives and express prosocial behaviors throughout their communities. Participants originated in and around the Hartford urban area, and were recruited either through a community service organization in which they were participating, or through an organization from which they were receiving supportive services. Results showed that the participants who provided community service through their organizations were more civically engaged than those who had been the recipients of a social service organization. Furthermore, for highly civically engaged youth, a measure of prosocial tendencies correlated with a measure of identified purpose. Implications for future social service implementation are discussed.


Senior Thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychology.