Personal and familial predictors of altruism under stress / by Imi Ganz.
One way to study the development of genuine altruism is to conduct in-depth research on people who have been involved in humanitarian endeavors. The present research investigated the familial and personal factors discriminating heroes of the Holocaust, all of whom engaged in noteworthy rescue activities during World War II from nonrescuers. A set of previously untested hypotheses was generated. It was hypothesized that rescuers would differ significantly from nonrescuers in the cohesiveness and affection expressed within their families of origin, in their view that their behavior was based on a role model, in the disciplinary techniques reportedly used by their parents, in the behaviors and values expressed by their parents, and in their birth order. In addition, it was hypothesized that the simultaneous combination of these predictors would predict group membership (rescuers versus nonrescuers). Measures included the Moos and Moos (1986) Family Cohesiveness Subscale and several internally consistent scales developed by Midlarsky (1990) as part of her comprehensive interview instrument. Support for most hypotheses was obtained at a significant level. A series of one-way analyses of variance revealed that rescuers recalled that their parents were more affectionate and that they felt closer to their families than nonrescuers did. Also, more rescuers than nonrescuers recalled that their parents used inductive discipline, and more nonrescuers than rescuers recalled that their parents used power-assertion discipline. Moreover, rescuers recalled that both of their parents had values which are consistent with altruistic behaviors to a larger extent than nonrescuers did. Results of a series of chi-square tests indicated that more rescuers than nonrescuers recalled having had a model when they were children, and felt that either or both of their parents were models for their behavior to a larger extent than nonrescuers did. Furthermore, rescuers rated their most influential model as having demonstrated prosocial behaviors to a larger extent than nonrescuers did. Direct discriminant function analysis using most of the predictors correctly classified 79.71 percent of the sample by group. Contrary to expectations, love-withdrawal discipline and birth order did not discriminate rescuers from nonrescuers. Implications and suggestions for further research are discussed.
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