International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 9 Num. 2 - June 2009


A Comparative Analysis of Empathy in Childhood and Adolescence: Gender Differences and Associated Socio-emotional Variables

Volume 9 Num. 2 - June 2009 - Pages 217-235


Maite Garaigordobil


This study has two objectives: 1) to carry out a comparative exploration of empathy and
a set of socio-emotional variables in childhood and adolescence, analyzing gender differences;
and 2) to analyze the relationship of empathy with social behaviour, sociometric choice of
prosocial classmate, self-concept and capacity for analyzing negative emotions in children
and in adolescents. The sample is made up of 313 participants aged 10 to 14 years. The
methodology used is descriptive and correlational. In order to measure the variables, we
administered 12 assessment instruments. The ANOVAs indicate that, for all ages, girls
score significantly higher in empathy, prosocial behaviour, assertive behaviour and ability
for cognitive analysis of negative emotions, whereas boys present more aggressive behaviours
in their interaction with peers. Furthermore, the analysis reveals that capacity for empathy
does not increase between the ages of 10 and 14. Pearson coefficients suggest, for all ages,
a positive association of empathy with positive social behaviours (prosocial, assertive,
consideration for others), self-concept and ability to analyze the causes of negative emotions;
and a negative association with negative social behaviours (aggressive, antisocial, withdrawal).

Key words:

empathy, socio-emotional development, gender, childhood-adolescence.

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