Toddlers' empathy-related responding to distress: Predictions from negative emotionality and maternal behavior in infancy

Tracy Spinrad, Cynthia A. Stifter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

81 Scopus citations


This study focused on the predictive contributions of infants' temperamental negative emotionality (proneness to fear, anger), sex, maternal responsivity, and their interaction on toddlers' empathy-related responding to distress in 3 contexts. Ninety-eight infants and their mothers participated in a longitudinal study. When the infants were 10 months of age, mothers completed assessments of infant temperamental anger and fear, and maternal behaviors were observed in a free-play setting. At 18 months of age, toddlers' empathy-related responding to the distress of a stranger, a crying baby doll, and the mother was assessed. A series of hierarchical and logistic regressions were performed, and results indicated that infant fear predicted higher concerned awareness toward adults and higher personal distress reactions toward the mother. In addition, maternal responsivity predicted higher concerned attention and lower personal distress reactions toward the baby doll and mother. Findings also revealed several interaction effects to predict toddlers' empathy-related responding to distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-121
Number of pages25
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 25 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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