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Genet Soc Gen Psychol Monogr. 1997 Aug;123(3):303-24.

The structure of empathy during middle childhood and its relationship to prosocial behavior.

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Department of Educational Psychology, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


This study was an investigation of the structure and development of dispositional empathy during middle childhood and its relationship to altruism. A sample of 478 students from 2nd, 4th, and 6th grades completed an altruism questionnaire and a social desirability scale, both created for this study, and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1980), adapted for this study. Teachers also rated the students on prosocial behaviors, such as sharing. In addition, as an experimental part of the study, the children could make monetary donations and volunteer time to raise funds. Results of a confirmatory factor analysis on the Interpersonal Reactivity Index supported Davis's (1980) findings that empathy comprises four components: perspective taking, fantasy, empathic concern, and personal distress. Factor intercorrelations, however, were not the same as those reported by Davis. MANOVAs were used to examine gender and age effects on empathy. Girls were more empathic in general than boys, and older children showed more empathic concern than younger children. Only empathic concern and perspective taking were significant predictors of prosocial behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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