Papers - Others‎ > ‎

(Kienbaum 2014)

The development of sympathy from 5 to 7 years: increase, decline or stability? A longitudinal study
2014 May 20.

  • Does talk about empathy as well

In the present study the development of sympathy in a group of 85 children (43 girls) was investigated over a 3-year period, starting with the last year of child care, when the children were 5 years-old. Sympathy was measured via different measures: two standardized observations, where the children were observed as they witnessed the distress of a puppet in two different situations; two follow-up interviews with the children immediately after the observations; a self-report questionnaire and two other-report questionnaires by parents and teachers. At all three periods the observations and the children’s self-reports (interviews, questionnaire) were intercorrelated. 

The teachers’ and the parents’ reports were not significantly correlated with any of the other measures at time 1. At times 2 and 3, a few low but significant correlations emerged. As a consequence, the other reports were dropped from further analyses and a composed sympathy measure consisting of observations and self-reports was created. Rank-order stability of this composed measure over the course of the 3 years proved to be high; suggesting that interindividual differences maintained stability. Mean-level differences showed a significant increase over the course of the study with the highest increase in the initial 2 years. Neither gender nor the interaction between gender and time were significant.

 In conclusion, the measurement of sympathy has proven valid for the childrens’ observations and self-reports. To the question of age-correlated development, stability in sympathy is firstly high and secondly sympathy increases mainly during the time between the last year in child care and the first year in elementary school.


  • Amsterdam B. (1972). Mirror self-image reactions before age two. Dev. Psychobiol. 5 297–305 10.1002/dev.420050403 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Autonomous Province of South Tyrol. (ed.). (2013). South Tyrol in Figures. Bolzano: ASTAT

  • Batson C. D. (1991). The Altruism Question: Toward a Social-Psychological Answer. Hillsdale, NY: Erlbaum

  • Bischof N. (1989). Emotionale Verwirrungen: oder Von den Schwierigkeiten im Umgang mit der Biologie [Emotional confusions. Or: problems in dealing with biology.]. Psychol. Rundsch. 40 188–205

  • Bischof-Köhler D. (2012). Empathy and self-recognition in phylogenetic and ontogenetic perspective.Emot. Rev. 4 40–48 10.1177/1754073911421377 [Cross Ref]

  • Campbell D. T., Fiske D. W. (1959). Convergent and discriminant validation by the multitrait-multimethod matrix. Psychol. Bull. 56 81–105 10.1037/h0046016 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Caplan M. Z., Hay D. F. (1989). Preschoolers’ responses to peers’ distress and beliefs about bystander intervention. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry 30 231–242 10.1111/j.1469-7610.1989.tb00237.x [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Chaplin T. M., Aldao A. (2013). Gender differences in emotion expression in children: a meta-analytic review. Psychol. Bull. 139 735–765 10.1037/a0030737 [PMC free article] [PubMed][Cross Ref]

  • Cohen J. (1968). Nominal scale agreement with provision for scaled disagreement or partial credit.Psychol. Bull. 70 213–220 10.1037/h0026256 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Cohen J. (1988). Statistical Power Analyses for the Statistical Sciences, 2nd Edn. Hillsdale, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum

  • Davidov M., Zahn-Waxler C., Roth-Hanania R., Knafo A. (2013). Concern
    for others in the first year of life: theory, evidence, and avenues for research.
     Child Dev. Perspect. 7 126–131 10.1111/cdep.12028 [Cross Ref]

  • Decety J., Svetlova M. (2012). Putting together phylogenetic and ontogenetic perspectives on empathy. Dev. Cogn. Neurosci. 2 1–24 10.1016/j.dcn.2011.05.003 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Dondi M., Simion F., Caltran G. (1999). Can newborns discriminate between their own cry and the cry of another newborn infant? Dev. Psychol. 35 418–426 10.1037/0012-1649.35.2.418 [PubMed][Cross Ref]

  • Eisenberg N., Fabes R. A., Spinrad T. L. (2006). “Prosocial development,” in Handbook of Child Psychology 6th ed. Vol. 3 eds Damon W., Eisenberg N., Lerner R. M., editors. (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.) 646–718

  • Eisenberg N., McCreath H., Ahn R. (1988). Vicarious emotional responsiveness and prosocial behavior: their interrelations in young children. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 14 298–311 10.1177/0146167288142008 [Cross Ref]

  • Eisenberg N., Guthrie I. K., Murphy B. C., Shepard S. A., Cumberland A., Carlo G. (1999).Consistency and development of prosocial dispositions: a longitudinal study. Child Dev. 70 1360–1372 10.1111/1467-8624.00100 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Eisenberg N., Michalik N., Spinrad T. L., Hofer C., Kupfer A., Valiente C., et al. (2007). The relations of effortful control and impulsivity to children’s sympathy: a longitudinal study. Cogn. Dev.22 544–567 10.1016/j.cogdev.2007.08.003 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Eisenberg N., Spinrad T. L., Morris A. (2014). “Empathy-related responding in children,” inHandbook of Moral Development eds Killen M., Smetana J. G., editors. (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers) 184–207

  • Field A. P. (2009). Discovering Statistics Using SPSS. Los Angeles, CA: Sage

  • Hastings P. D., Zahn-Waxler C., Robinson J. A., Usher B., Bridges D. (2000). The development of concern for others in children with behavior problems. Dev. Psychol. 36 531–546 10.1037/0012-1649.36.5.531 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Hay D. F. (1994). Prosocial development. Child Psychol. Psychiatry 35 29–71 10.1111/j.1469-7610.1994.tb01132.x [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Hoffman M. L. (2000). Empathy and Moral Development: Implications for Caring and Justice. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 10.1017/CBO9780511805851 [Cross Ref]

  • Kärtner J., Keller H., Chaudhary N. (2010). Cognitive and social influences on early prosocial behavior in two sociocultural contexts. Dev. Psychol. 46 905–914 10.1037/a0019718 [PubMed][Cross Ref]

  • Kienbaum J. (2001). The socialization of compassionate behavior by child care teachers. Early Educ. Dev. 12 139–153 10.1207/s15566935eed1201_8 [Cross Ref]

  • Kienbaum J., Trommsdorff G. (1997). Vergleich zweier Methoden zur Erfassung des Mitgefôhls im Vorschulalter [Assessing sympathy in preschool-age children: comparison of two methods]. Z. Entwickl. Paedag. Psychol. 29 271–290

  • Kienbaum J., Volland C., Ulich D. (2001). Sympathy in the context of mother-child and teacher-child relationships. Int. J. Behav. Dev. 25 302–309 10.1080/01650250143000076 [Cross Ref]

  • Knafo A., Zahn-Waxler C., van Hulle C., Robinson J. L., Rhee S. H. (2008). The developmental origins of a disposition toward empathy: genetic and environmental contributions. Emot. Rev. 8 737–752 10.1037/a0014179 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Light S. N., Coan J. A., Zahn-Waxler C., Frye C., Goldsmith H. H., Davidson R. J. (2009). Empathy is associated with dynamic change in prefrontal brain electrical activity during positive emotion in children. Child Dev. 80 1210–1231 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01326.x [PMC free article] [PubMed][Cross Ref]

  • Malti T., Buchmann M. (2010). Die Entwicklung moralischer Emotionen bei Kindergartenkindern [The development of moral emotions in early childhood]. Prax. Kinderpsychol. Kinderpsychiatr. 59545–560 10.13109/prkk.2010.59.7.545 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Malti T., Eisenberg N., Kim H., Buchmann M. (2013). Developmental trajectories of sympathy, moral emotion attributions, and moral reasoning: the role of parental support. Soc. Dev. 22 773–793 10.1111/sode.12031 [Cross Ref]

  • Paulus M. (2014). The emergence of prosocial behavior: why do infants and toddlers help, comfort, and share? Child Dev. Perspect.. [Epub ahead of print]10.1111/cdep.12066 [Cross Ref]

  • Paulus M., Kühn-Popp N., Licata M., Sodian B., Meinhardt J. (2013). Neural correlates of prosocial behavior in infancy: different neurophysiological mechanisms support the emergence of helping and comforting. Neuroimage 66 522–530 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.10.041 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Roth-Hanania R., Davidov M., Zahn-Waxler C. (2011). Empathy development from 8 to 16 months: early signs of concern for others. Infant Behav. Dev. 34 447–458 10.1016/j.infbeh.2011.04.007[PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Sagi A., Hoffman M. L. (1976). Empathic distress in the newborn. Dev. Psychol. 12 175–176 10.1037/0012-1649.12.2.175 [Cross Ref]

  • Sallquist J., Eisenberg N., Spinrad T. L., Eggum N. D., Gaertner B. M. (2009). Assessment of preschoolers’ positive empathy: concurrent and longitudinal relations with positive emotion, social competence, and sympathy. J. Pos. Psychol. 4 223–233 10.1080/17439760902819444[PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Schulz K., Rudolph A., Tscharaktschiew N., Rudolph U. (2013). Daniel has fallen into a muddy puddle – Schadenfreude or sympathy? Br. J. Dev. Psychol. 31 363–378 10.1111/bjdp.12013[PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Simmer M. L. (1971). Newborn’s response to the cry of another infant. Dev. Psychol. 5 136–150 10.1037/h0031066 [Cross Ref]

  • Singer T. (2006). The neuronal basis and ontogeny of empathy and mind reading: review of literature and implications for future research. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 30 855–863 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2006.06.011 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Spinrad T. L., Stifter C. A. (2006). Toddlers’ empathy-related responding to distress: predictions from negative emotionality and maternal behavior in infancy. Infancy 10 97–121 10.1207/s15327078in1002_1 [Cross Ref]

  • Svetlova M., Nichols S. R., Brownell C. A. (2010). Toddlers prosocial behavior: from instrumental to empathic to altruistic helping. Child Dev. 81 1814–1827 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01512.x[PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Trommsdorff G., Friedlmeier W., Mayer B. (2007). Sympathy, distress, and prosocial behavior of preschool children in four cultures. Int. J. Behav. Dev. 31 284–293 10.1177/0165025407076441[Cross Ref]

  • Vaish A., Carpenter M., Tomasello M. (2009). Sympathy through affective perspective taking and its relation to prosocial behavior in toddlers. Dev. Psychol. 45 534–543 10.1037/a0014322 [PubMed][Cross Ref]

  • van der Mark I. L., van IJzendoorn M. H., Bakermans-Kranenburg M. J. (2002). Development of empathy in girls during the second year of life: associations with parenting, attachment, and temperament. Soc. Dev. 11 451–468 10.1111/1467-9507.00210 [Cross Ref]

  • Volbrecht M. M., Lemery-Chalfant K., Aksan N., Zahn-Waxler C., Goldsmith H. H. (2007).Examining the familial link between positive affect and empathy development in the second year. J. Gen. Psychol. 168 105–129 10.3200/GNTP.168.2.105-130 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

  • Volland C., Ulich D., Fischer A. (2004). Wer verdient Hilfe? Zum altersabhängigen Einfluss von Empfängermerkmalen auf die Prosozialität von Kindern [Who deserves help? The age-dependent influence of recipient characteristics on the prosociality of children]. Z. Entwickl. Paedag. Psychol. 3669–73

  • Zahn-Waxler C., Radke-Yarrow M., Wagner E., Chapman M. (1992). Development of concern for others. Dev. Psychol. 28 126–136 10.1037/0012-1649.28.1.126 [Cross Ref]

  • Zahn-Waxler C., Schiro K., Robinson J. A. L., Emde R. N., Schmitz S. (2001). “Empathy and prosocial patterns in young MZ and DZ twins. Development and genetic and environmental influences,” in Infancy to Early Childhood. Genetic and Environmental Influences on Development Change eds Emde R. N., Hawitt J. K., editors. (New York: Oxford University Press) 141–162

  • Zhou Q., Valiente C., Eisenberg N. (2003). “Empathy and its measurement,” in Positive Psychological Assessment: A Handbook of Models and Measures eds Lopez S. J., Snyder C. R., editors. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) 269–284 10.1037/10612-017[Cross Ref]