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date: 28 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Developmental psychologists have been increasingly interested in studying children’s “prosocial behavior,” defined as voluntary acts to benefit another. We begin this chapter by differentiating between empathy, sympathy, and personal distress reactions, arguing that compassion overlaps considerably with the construct of sympathy. Next, we focus on the normative development of children’s prosocial behavior and children’s empathy-related responses. Our empirical work also is reviewed, highlighting the differential associations of empathy, sympathy, and personal distress with children’s prosocial behavior. In addition, we discuss our work examining both dispositional and socialization factors that predict individual differences in children’s concern for others. We conclude by urging researchers to consider nuances in compassionate behaviors, such as studying the recipients of prosocial actions and different types of prosocial behaviors.

Keywords: development, empathy, sympathy, prosocial behavior, individual differences, emotionality, regulation, parenting

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