Empathy and moral emotions

Nancy Eisenberg, Amanda Sheffield Morris, Julie Vaughan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Moral emotions are presumed to play an important role in socioemotional development and social behavior (e.g. Hoffman, 2000; Eisenberg, 2000). Children and adolescents who experience others' emotions, concern for others, and emotions such as guilt and shame are expected to behave in ways that are responsive to others' feelings, social cues, norms, and cultural values regarding interactions with others. In this chapter, we review research on the normative development of empathy/sympathy, shame, and guilt and on their sociocognitive and socioemotional correlates in non-clinical samples. We generally do not discuss embarrassment and pride as they are likely less important in moral development, and because research on pride has most often concerned achievements (Eisenberg, 2000). Much of the research on moral emotions and normative socioemotional development has been conducted with children rather than adolescents, whereas research on the relations of moral emotions to psychological problems such as depression tends to be conducted with adolescent participants (see Gilbert and Irons, Chapter 11, this volume). In this chapter research on both childhood and adolescence is reviewed. The relative dearth of empirical research on the development and correlates of moral emotions in typical adolescents (rather than those prone to depression) is not surprising given the tendency for social and behavioral scientists, as well as the press, to emphasize negative aspects of adolescence such as “raging” hormones, defiance of authority, and delinquency (Steinberg & Morris, 2001).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdolescent Emotional Development and the Emergence of Depressive Disorders
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780511551963
ISBN (Print)9780521869393
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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