Development of empathy in girls during the second year of life: Associations with parenting, attachment, and temperament

Ingrid L. Van der Mark, Marinus H. Van IJzendoorn*, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The development, antecedents, and concomitants of empathic concern in the second year of life were examined. Associations with parental sensitivity, children's fearfulness and attachment security were investigated. At 16 and at 22 months, 125 firstborn girls from middle-class families were observed in their homes and in the laboratory. Empathic concern was assessed from the girls' responses to simulated distress in their mothers and in an unfamiliar person. Temperamental fearfulness was observed when they were confronted with potentially scary items. Attachment security was assessed with the Strange Situation procedure, and parental sensitivity was measured in problem-solving situations both at home and in the lab. From 16 to 22 months, empathic concern for the mother's distress increased, whereas empathy for the stranger decreased. A more fearful temperament and less attachment security predicted less empathic concern for the stranger's distress. Antecedent and concurrent measures of parenting showed disappointingly weak associations with empathic concern. Empathy for strangers in distress requires the regulation of negative emotions for which fearful and insecurely attached girls seem to be less well equipped.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-468
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Attachment
  • Empathy
  • Parenting
  • Temperament


Dive into the research topics of 'Development of empathy in girls during the second year of life: Associations with parenting, attachment, and temperament'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this