Emotion understanding, theory of mind, and prosocial orientation: Relations over time in early childhood

Natalie Wilkens, Nancy Eisenberg, Karen Kao, Tracy Spinrad, Rebecca Bolnick, Claire Hofer, Anne S. Kupfer, William Fabricius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

57 Scopus citations

Abstract

Data were collected when children were 42, 54, and 72 months of age (Ns=210, 191, and 172 for T1, T2, and T3, respectively). Children's emotion understanding (EU) and theory of mind (ToM) were examined as predictors of children's prosocial orientation within and across time. EU positively related to children's sympathy across 2.5 years, and T1 EU positively related to parent-reported prosocial orientation concurrently and across 1 year (T2). T2 ToM positively related to parents' reports of sympathy and prosocial orientation concurrently and 18 months later (T3); in contrast, T3 ToM did not relate to sympathy or prosocial orientation. T2 ToM accounted for marginally significant variance (p<0.058) in T3 mother-reported prosocial orientation over and above that accounted for by T2 prosocial orientation. Fostering the development of EU and ToM may contribute to children's prosocial orientation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-16
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2011

Keywords

  • Emotion understanding
  • Empathy
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Sympathy
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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