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New Dir Child Dev. 1989 Summer;(44):107-26.

Sympathy and personal distress: development, gender differences, and interrelations of indexes.


In summary, in our multimethod research concerning vicariously induced emotion, we have obtained several patterns of importance. First, we have obtained modest differences in facial and self-report indexes of emotion, nearly all indicating greater responsivity by females. Moreover, some of the data suggest that this gender difference increases with age. Second, we have found that facial indexes of negative emotion are stronger for younger than older persons and that older children's self-reports of emotion are somewhat more consistent with the context than are those of young children. Finally, although we have not obtained strong or consistent relations among our physiological, self-report, and facial indexes of emotion, those that have been obtained suggest a positive relation among indexes, one that appears to be stronger for younger than older persons (especially girls). Further research confirming these patterns of findings is needed; nonetheless, the preliminary data can be viewed as indicating that a multimethod approach to studying empathy is useful for increasing our understanding of empathy, sympathy, and personal distress reactions and their development.

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