Direct and indirect pathways from maternal and paternal empathy to young children's socioemotional functioning

Yannan Hu, Helen T. Emery, Niyantri Ravindran, Nancy L. McElwain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In the present article, we investigated the contributions of maternal and paternal empathy to child socioemotional competence both directly and indirectly through parents' emotion socialization practices using data from two longitudinal studies: Study 1 (n = 122, 61 girls, M age = 33 months) and Study 2 (n = 60, 31 girls; M age = 27 months). Results indicated that parental empathy had an indirect effect on children's positive peer relations (Study 1 and Study 2) via more supportive reactions to children's negative emotions. No indirect effects of parental empathy emerged in the models examining parents' nonsupportive reactions to children's emotions, although parental empathy showed a direct association with greater child empathy (Study 2). Moreover, paths composing indirect and direct effects did not significantly differ as a function of parent gender. The findings suggest that mothers' and fathers' dispositional empathy contribute in similar ways to young children's socioemotional competence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-835
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Volume34
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Emotion socialization
  • Fathers
  • Parental empathy
  • Peer relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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