The relations of ego-resiliency and emotion socialization to the development of empathy and prosocial behavior across early childhood

Zoe E. Taylor, Nancy Eisenberg, Tracy Spinrad, Natalie Wilkens, Michael J. Sulik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Scopus citations

Abstract

The present study explored early personality and environmental predictors of the development of young children's empathy, as well as relations of empathy to prosocial behavior with peers at a later age. How children manage their own emotions and behaviors when under stress-their ego-resiliency-would be expected to affect their responses to others' emotions. Also, socialization experiences, such as the quality of parenting behaviors, have been associated with individual differences in empathy-related responding. We examined whether mothers' emotion socialization practices and children's ego-resiliency at 18 months predicted initial levels and change in empathy across five time points (24, 30, 42, 48, and 54 months; N = 242), and whether empathy in turn predicted prosocial behavior with peers at 72/84 months of age. Ego-resiliency and mothers' expressive encouragement both uniquely predicted the intercept of empathy. Boys' empathy was lower than girls' but improved more with age. Initial levels and growth of empathy positively predicted later prosocial behavior. Children's ego-resiliency predicted the slope of empathy at near significance (p = .054). We also found that the intercept of empathy mediated the relation between ego-resiliency and prosocial behavior as well as the relation between mothers' expressive encouragement and prosocial behavior. These findings suggest that both parenting and personality characteristics are relevant to the development of empathy during early childhood and might contribute to children's later prosocial behavior with peers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-831
Number of pages10
JournalEmotion
Volume13
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013

Keywords

  • Early childhood
  • Ego-resiliency
  • Empathy
  • Parenting
  • Prosocial behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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