Article

Empathy development from 8 to 16 months: Early signs of concern for others

The Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, Israel.
Infant behavior & development (Impact Factor: 1.34). 05/2011; 34(3):447-58. DOI: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2011.04.007
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The study examined the responses of typically developing infants to the distress of another, prior to and following the transition to the second year. Infants' responses to maternal simulations of distress and to a peer distress videotape were observed from 8 to 16 months, using an accelerated longitudinal design (overall n = 37). Modest levels of affective and cognitive empathy for another in distress were already evident before the second year, and increased gradually (and not always significantly) across the transition to the second year. Prosocial behavior was rare in the first year and increased substantially during the second year. Self-distress reactions were rare overall. Individual differences in cognitive and affective empathy assessed in the first year, particularly at 10-months, predicted the levels of prosocial behavior observed in the second year. No gender differences were found. Theoretical implications and future research directions are discussed.

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    • "For example, in a study of adults' thinking about others' emotions, variation in the gene ZNF804A related to neural activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and left temporoparietal cortex (Walter et al., 2011). Similarly, it would be important to study the biological aspects of prosocial and empathic responding from an early age, due to the accumulating evidence for the early emergence of relevant behaviors (e.g., Hamlin et al., 2011; Roth-Hanania et al., 2011). There is little developmental research on the neural bases of such behaviors, and we located no longitudinal study covering meaningful developmental ground on the topic. "
    Oxford handbook of prosocial behavior, Edited by D. A. Schroeder, W. G. Graziano, 01/2015: chapter The development of prosocial behavior.: pages 114-136; Oxford University Press.
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    • "There is some suggestion that toddler girls may show more affective concern than boys to adults (Knafo et al., 2008; Volbrecht et al., 2007; Zahn-Waxler, Radke-Yarrow et al., 1992; Zahn-Waxler , Robinson et al., 1992), with this effect becoming more pronounced with age (Zahn-Waxler et al., 1992). However, gender effects have been inconsistent when infants' responsiveness to other children is examined (Gill & Calkins, 2003; Roth-Hanania et al., 2011; Spinrad & Stifter, 2006). Because gender differences in early prosocial behavior have been less thoroughly examined than those in later childhood, relatively little is known about their origins, particularly toward other children (Eisenberg et al., 2006). "
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    • "Empathetic responding, which implies a shared interpersonal experience, is implicated in many aspects of social cognition, notably prosocial behavior, morality, and the regulation of aggression (Decety, 2010; Eisenberg and Eggum, 2009). Many behavioral studies have investigated the development of empathy during childhood (e.g., Bandstra et al., 2011; Roth-Hanania et al., 2011; Vaish and Warneken, 2012; Zahn-Waxler et al., 1992), and a few have begun to examine neuro-developmental changes using functional neuroimaging methods (Decety and Michalska, 2010; Decety et al., 2008, 2012). Much less is known about the developmental changes in empathy over the life span. "
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