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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Connecticut]On: 10 October 2014, At: 21:16Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    The Journal of Psychology:Interdisciplinary and AppliedPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vjrl20

    Children's Perception ofParental Empathy as aPrecursor of Children'sEmpathy in Middle and LateChildhoodMara Cristina Richaud de Minzi aa Interdisciplinary Center of Mathematical andExperimental Psychology Research, National Councilof Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET)Published online: 20 Sep 2013.

    To cite this article: Mara Cristina Richaud de Minzi (2013) Children's Perception ofParental Empathy as a Precursor of Children's Empathy in Middle and Late Childhood,The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 147:6, 563-576, DOI:10.1080/00223980.2012.721811

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2012.721811

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  • The Journal of Psychology, 2013, 147(6), 563576Copyright C 2013 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

    Childrens Perception of ParentalEmpathy as a Precursor of Childrens

    Empathy in Middle and Late Childhood

    MARIA CRISTINA RICHAUD DE MINZIInterdisciplinary Center of Mathematical and Experimental Psychology

    Research, National Council of Scientific and TechnicalResearch (CONICET)

    ABSTRACT. This study examined: 1) the development of empathy in middle and latechildhood, according to gender; 2) childrens perception of parents empathy according togender; and 3) the links between childrens perception of parents empathy and childrensempathy. Spanish translation of the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index and a Measure ofChildren Perception of Parental Empathy were administered to 387 middle class children,aged 812 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the first place, we have found, as previous studieson the subject, significant differences between boys and girls empathy, girls being moreempathic than boys. When comparing boys and girls in their perception of mother andfather empathy, they agree in their perception of their mothers empathy, but girls perceivemore empathy in their father than boys. There is clearly a connection with gender, whichis probably due to cultural factors. As for the relationship between parents and childrensempathy, although previous studies showed little correlation in this regard, in the presentstudy, when considering the perception children have of their parents empathy, interestingmeaningful connections are found.

    Keywords: empathy, parental empathy, gender, culture

    THE DEVELOPMENT OF EMPATHY IN MIDDLE AND LATE CHILDHOOD,and its origins, in part, in primary interpersonal relationships, especially withparents is the aim of this article. Regarding this subject we are interested inanalyzing whether childrens perception of Parental Empathy as a result of parentalmodeling can predict empathy in the child.

    Empathy is the ability to participate in the feelings or ideas of others, to feelsad about their unhappiness and good about their joy. In order to develop empathy,a child must be able to feel attachment to another person and must care if thatperson is hurting. The development of empathy and of the corresponding guilt

    Address correspondence to Mara Cristina Richaud de Minzi, Tte. Gral. Peron 2158 (1040)Buenos Aires, Republica Argentina; richaudmc@gmail.com (e-mail).

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  • 564 The Journal of Psychology

    and shame when one harms or fails to help another person, guarantees pro-socialbehavior and altruism, even and preferably in the absence of external rewards andpunishments.

    Empathy includes cognitive processes and emotional experiences, and impliesa mainly cognitive response showing understanding of how another person feelsas well as an emotional communion (Gallo, 1989). Haynes and Avery (1979)described empathy as the ability to recognize and understand another personsperceptions and feelings and to carefully express that understanding in an acceptingresponse (p. 527). The response may be either verbal or nonverbal, or pro-socialbehavior such as sharing or helping.

    On the one hand, empathy can be defined cognitively in relation to perspectivetaking or understanding others. For example, Hogan (1969) described empathyas the intellectual or imaginative apprehension of anothers condition or state ofmind without actually experiencing that persons feelings (p. 308). On the otherhand, empathy has also been defined as emotional arousal or sympathy in responseto the feelings or experiences of others (Caruso & Meyer, 1998). For example,Mehrabian and Epstein (1972) defined empathy as the heightened responsivenessto anothers emotional experience (p. 526). Last, there is an integrative approachwhich employs both cognitive and emotional modes to the study of empathy.More recently, empathy has been conceived of as a multi-dimensional construct(Davis, 1983; Thornton & Thornton, 1995). Davis (1983) included cognitive andemotional components in his view of empathy, and he believes that it can bestbe considered as a set of constructs related in that they all concern responsivity toothers but are also clearly discriminable from each other (p.113).

    The development of empathy leading to guilt and shame when ones actionsharm others is a crucial aspect of emotional development. Early parent-child inter-actions are an important influence on childrens emotional development. Childreninitially learn to express and interpret emotions through interactions with primarycaregivers. In infancy, caregivers influence emotional development through theextent to which they provide emotionally arousing stimuli at appropriate times,reinforce and encourage emotional displays, and respond to subtle variations inthe childs expressions (Bronson, 2000; Eisenberg, Cumberland, & Spinrad, 1998;Nagin & Tremblay, 2001).

    Some studies have found a positive relationship between the mothers em-pathic caring and childrens altruism (Zahn-Waxler, Radke-Yarrow, & King, 1979).Also, studies on preschool children have found that non-authoritarian and non-punishing mothers have children with higher levels of affective and cognitiveempathy, and pro-social behavior. Eisenberg, Lennon, and Roth (1983) examined,using a longitudinal methodology, the relation between prosocial moral judgmentof children since 4 to 6 years old and both prohibition-oriented moral judgmentand maternal childrearing practices. They found level of prosocial reasoning wasrelated to nonauthoritarian, nonpunitive, empathic, and supportive maternal prac-tices. Also it has been noticed that parental modeling of empathic relationships

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  • Richaud de Minzi 565

    towards their children and others in their presence, is strongly linked to the de-velopment of pro-social attitudes and behavior in children. Zahn-Waxler et al.examined maternal rearing behavior in relation to 1/2-2/2 childrens reparationfor transgressions and altruism as bystanders to distress in others. Distress wassimulated by mothers and investigators. Mothers empathic caregiving was ratingduring home visits and was positively associated with childrens reparation andaltruism.

    Nevertheless, surprisingly little empirical support exists for a link betweenparent and child empathy.

    Strayer and Roberts (1989) find that although childrens emotional empathywas associated with parental perceptions of the child as empathic, it was notrelated to parents own empathy. Although mothers reported significantly higherlevels of empathy than did fathers, neither mothers nor fathers empathy wasrelated to the empathy of da