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).

published proceedings

  • Soc Dev

author list (cited authors)

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

citation count

  • 26

complete list of authors

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

publication date

  • February 2015