Predicting Sympathy and Prosocial Behavior from Young Children's Dispositional Sadness.
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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).