The relations of empathy-related emotions and maternal practices to children′s comforting behavior

Nancy Eisenberg, Richard Fabes, Gustavo Carlo, Anna Lee Speer, Galen Switzer, Mariss Karbon, Debra Troyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Examined are the relations of maternal empathy-related characteristics, maternal child-rearing practices, and children′s vicarious emotional responding to kindergarteners′ and third graders′ comforting of a crying infant. Children who exhibited facial personal distress in reaction to the baby cry were less likely to help than were other children. In addition, children′s distressed reactions to a different sympathy stimulus (a film) were positively correlated with their distressed reaction to the baby cry; children′s self-reported reactions to the sympathy-inducing film also were related to their comforting behavior. For girls, maternal perspective taking was positively related to amount and quality (tone of voice) of comforting behavior. Moreover, maternal use of problem-solving and discussion when their daughters were distressed or anxious were associated with higher levels of girls′ helping whereas maternal comforting/affirming in a distressing context was negatively related to helping. The only relation of maternal variables to comforting for boys was a positive correlation between maternal reinforcement and quality of boys′ comforting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-150
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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