EJIHPE | Free Full-Text | Assessing the Relationship between Prosocial Behavior and Well-Being: Basic Psychological Need as the Mediator

EJIHPE | Free Full-Text | Assessing the Relationship between Prosocial Behavior and Well-Being: Basic Psychological Need as the Mediator

2.1. Prosocial Behavior and Well-Being

Prosocial behavior refers to actions that benefit others, groups, or society as a whole [24]. These behaviors encompass acts such as helping, sharing, volunteering, cooperation, and charitable giving [25,26,27,28]. Recent studies have further expanded the understanding of prosocial behaviors, highlighting their relevance in various contexts, including educational settings [29,30]. From an individual standpoint, engaging in prosocial behavior contributes to personal self-esteem and satisfaction [31,32]. On an interpersonal level, prosocial behavior enhances social interactions and fosters interpersonal harmony [33]. Furthermore, prosocial behaviors are considered symbols of social responsibility and play a crucial role in maintaining social harmony [34].
While previous research has primarily focused on contextual factors related to helping behavior, there has been a growing interest in studying prosocial behavior within group and cross-group contexts among students [35]. Specifically, Chinese society places a strong emphasis on interconnectedness and social harmony, valuing virtues such as benevolence, compassion, and mutual support [36]. Acts of helping others are often perceived as integral to nurturing collective well-being and maintaining societal balance [37]. Moreover, the influence of Confucian principles, deeply ingrained in Chinese cultural values, underscores the significance of altruistic actions and moral integrity in interpersonal interactions [38,39]. Within this context, understanding the manifestation and effects of prosocial behavior among students can provide valuable insights into the cultural dynamics and social norms that influence their altruistic actions. Research examining prosocial behavior among students in China can illuminate the cultural factors that shape their attitudes and behaviors, as well as inform the development of culturally sensitive interventions and educational strategies that promote prosocial behavior and enhance the well-being of Chinese students.
With the increasing prominence of psychological issues among vocational students, improving their well-being has become a crucial area of interest for researchers and society at large. Previous research has diligently explored various dimensions of well-being, employing a range of measures to capture the multifaceted nature of this construct across diverse contexts. In this study, we narrow our focus to a specific facet of well-being relevant to vocational students. This facet pertains to a subjective construct, which involves an individual’s comprehensive evaluation of their life based on personal criteria [40]. It encompasses subjective experiences of happiness, life satisfaction, and vitality. Prosocial behaviors, which benefit others and promote harmonious interpersonal relationships, have been linked to well-being [41]. Engaging in prosocial behaviors provides individuals with a sense of purpose and fulfillment [28], promotes positive feelings and moods [42,43], and enhances social integration and connection, leading to the development of interpersonal relationships [44,45,46]. These factors contribute to an improved sense of self-worth, belonging, and connectedness, which ultimately enhances well-being [47,48,49,50].

Based on the aforementioned literature, we propose the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 1.

There is a positive association between prosocial behaviors (PB) and well-being (WB). In other words, individuals who engage in more prosocial behaviors will have higher levels of well-being.

However, the underlying mediating mechanisms (i.e., how PB influences WB) among vocational students remain a topic for ongoing inquiry, even though PB has been found to increase levels of WB. Additionally, previous research has explored various mediators that might explain the link between prosocial behaviors and well-being. For instance, studies have examined the role of basic psychological needs, social support, self-esteem, and positive affect as potential mediators [36,51,52]. To better understand how and when PB predicts WB, it is crucial to investigate the mediating mechanisms. Therefore, this study aims to examine the complicated conceptual model that investigates the mechanisms behind the link between PB and WB among vocational students, filling in these research gaps. Specifically, we will explore how basic psychological needs mediate the relationship between PB and WB.

2.2. The Mediating Effect of Basic Psychological Needs

The theory of basic psychological needs, developed by Deci and Ryan [53], posits that satisfying the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness is crucial for promoting individual growth and enhancing well-being. According to this theory, individuals have an innate tendency towards self-integration and growth, which relies on the fulfillment of these basic psychological needs. Autonomy need refers to the desire for self-determination and control over one’s life, competence refers to the desire for mastery and effectiveness, and relatedness refers to the desire for close connections with others. When these needs are satisfied, individuals are more likely to experience positive physical and mental health outcomes [54]. Conversely, when these needs are not met, individuals may become ill-adjusted and experience negative impacts on their well-being [55,56].
Research has consistently demonstrated that satisfying basic psychological needs positively influences well-being, leading to increased vitality, positive emotions, and self-esteem, and reduced anxiety and depression [57,58,59]. Moreover, it has been found that prosocial behavior plays a significant role in satisfying these basic psychological needs and contributing to overall well-being [60,61]. Prosocial behavior has been shown to fulfill individuals’ autonomy needs by allowing them to express their internal values and exercise a sense of control over their actions [36]. When individuals engage in acts of kindness or cooperation, they have the opportunity to make choices aligned with their personal values, thus satisfying their need for autonomy. Additionally, prosocial behavior fulfills competence needs by providing opportunities to demonstrate one’s skills and usefulness to others [60]. By engaging in prosocial behaviors, individuals can showcase their competencies and capabilities, contributing to their sense of competence and self-efficacy. Furthermore, prosocial behavior satisfies individuals’ relatedness needs by reducing social isolation and fostering social connections [53]. When individuals engage in prosocial acts, they often experience a sense of connection with others and strengthen their social bonds. By helping others or engaging in cooperative behaviors, individuals create opportunities for social interaction and belongingness, fulfilling their need for relatedness. These findings highlight the significance of prosocial behavior as a means of satisfying basic psychological needs and contributing to overall well-being.

Building upon the existing literature, we propose the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 2.

The satisfaction of basic psychological needs mediates the relationship between prosocial behavior and well-being among vocational students. Specifically, vocational students who engage in more prosocial behaviors will experience increased satisfaction with their basic psychological needs, which will be associated with higher levels of well-being.

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