Predicting Sympathy and Prosocial Behavior from Young Children's Dispositional Sadness. Academic Article uri icon


  • The purpose of this study was to examine whether dispositional sadness predicted children's prosocial behavior and if sympathy mediated this relation. Constructs were measured when children (N = 256 at Time 1) were 18-, 30-, and 42-months old. Mothers and non-parental caregivers rated children's sadness; mothers, caregivers, and fathers rated children's prosocial behavior; sympathy (concern and hypothesis testing) and prosocial behavior (indirect and direct, as well as verbal at older ages) were assessed with a task in which the experimenter feigned injury. In a panel path analysis, 30-month dispositional sadness predicted marginally higher 42-month sympathy; in addition, 30-month sympathy predicted 42-month sadness. Moreover, when controlling for prior levels of prosocial behavior, 30-month sympathy significantly predicted reported and observed prosocial behavior at 42 months. Sympathy did not mediate the relation between sadness and prosocial behavior (either reported or observed).

author list (cited authors)

  • Edwards, A., Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T. L., Reiser, M., Eggum-Wilkens, N. D., & Liew, J.

complete list of authors

  • Edwards, Alison||Eisenberg, Nancy||Spinrad, Tracy L||Reiser, Mark||Eggum-Wilkens, Natalie D||Liew, Jeffrey

publication date

  • January 1, 2015 11:11 AM