Predicting sympathy and prosocial behavior from young children's dispositional sadness

Alison Edwards, Nancy Eisenberg, Tracy Spinrad, Mark Reiser, Natalie D. Eggum-Wilkens, Jeffrey Liew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine whether dispositional sadness predicted children's prosocial behavior and if sympathy mediated this relation. Constructs were measured when children (n= 256 at time 1) were 18, 30, and 42 months old. Mothers and non-parental caregivers rated children's sadness; mothers, caregivers, and fathers rated children's prosocial behavior sympathy (concern and hypothesis testing) and prosocial behavior (indirect and direct, as well as verbal at older ages) were assessed with a task in which the experimenter feigned injury. In a panel path analysis, 30-month dispositional sadness predicted marginally higher 42-month sympathy; in addition, 30-month sympathy predicted 42-month sadness. Moreover, when controlling for prior levels of prosocial behavior, 30-month sympathy significantly predicted reported and observed prosocial behavior at 42 months. Sympathy did not mediate the relation between sadness and prosocial behavior (either reported or observed).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-94
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Development
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Keywords

  • Emotion
  • Empathy
  • Prosocial behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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