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Relations of Empathy to Anger, Gender, and Intrusive Maternal Parenting in Toddlers

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This longitudinal study examines the relations of anger, gender, and intrusive maternal parenting to empathy in toddlers. Participants (247 toddlers at the initial assessment) were assessed in a laboratory at

This longitudinal study examines the relations of anger, gender, and intrusive maternal parenting to empathy in toddlers. Participants (247 toddlers at the initial assessment) were assessed in a laboratory at approximately 18 (T1, N = 247), 30 (T2, N = 216), and 42 (T3, N = 192) months of age. Toddlers' observed anger was measured during a toy removal task and maternal intrusiveness was observed during free play between mother and toddler. Reported empathy was measured using questionnaires completed by mothers and fathers. At 18 months, a positive relation between observed anger and reported empathy was found for boys, but not for girls. At 30 months, maternal intrusiveness positively predicted empathy in boys, but it negatively predicted empathy in girls. These findings provide insight about sex differences in the development of empathy and concern for others in early childhood.

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  • 2013-05