Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated: Empathic Prosocial Responding in Children and Parent Disciplinary Strategies

Hayhurst, J. G. (University of Otago), Hunter, J. A. (University of Otago), Buchanan, M. (University of Otago), Du, K. (University of Otago), Ruffman, T. (University of Otago)

The present study explores parent and child prosocial and empathic responding in terms of parent characteristics, values and disciplinary strategies, as well as new measures of child social values. Children (age 5-10, N = 52) completed a prosocial empathic responding measure involving a sticker task and four short stories in which characters were harmed either intentionally or unintentionally, and the harm was either severe or mild. They also completed a RWA, SDO and self-esteem measures. Parents completed empathy, RWA, and SDO scales, and responded to four disciplinary scenarios, analysed in terms of perspective taking techniques, feelings discussed, and authoritative strategies. Results suggest that children responded more prosocially when characters in the stories were harmed intentionally, and the harm was severe. Parents of older children and with higher RWA used more authoritative discipline strategies. Parent empathy was positively correlated to perspective taking strategies. Levels of mother education was positively correlated to discussing feelings in disciplinary strategies. There were no correlations between discipline strategies and empathic responding, child RWA or child SDO. There was no correlation between parent and child empathy, RWA, or SDO. Implications are discussed in terms of parenting strategies, and empathy development in children.


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Personality and Personality Development