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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Children vary considerably in their propensities to orient toward, feel empathy for, and provide help to others in need or distress. This variability is rooted in a complex interplay between parenting factors, child neurobiology, and development. This chapter focuses on the two most common perspectives for studying and theorizing about this interplay. First, children’s experiences with compassionate and sensitive caregiving help to regulate and organize neurobiological systems related to affiliation, stress, and emotion in ways that prepare children to be prosocial. However, children also vary in their sensitivity to the effects of compassionate versus harsh caregiving. Thus, this chapter also considers how children’s neurobiology moderates the relation between parenting factors and prosocial development. These biopsychosocial perspectives expand our understanding of which children will be more or less prosocial as well as the mechanisms underlying these individual differences.

Keywords: prosocial development, neurobiology, caregiving, empathy, parenting, biopsychosocial models

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