This study examined change in self-reported empathy in a four-wave longitudinal study spanning 12 years (1992-2004) and the association between empathy and other measures, including daily reports of relationship experiences. Participants initially ranged in age from 10 years to 87 years. Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations of age with empathy revealed divergent patterns. Whereas cross-sectional analyses suggested that older adults scored lower in empathy than younger adults, longitudinal analyses showed no age-related decline in empathy. This combined pattern suggests that the cross-sectional age-differences reflect a cohort rather than an age effect, with older cohorts reporting lower levels of empathy than younger ones. Independent of age, empathy was associated with a positive well-being (e.g., life satisfaction) and interaction profile (e.g., positive relations with others). In addition, a subsample of participants (n = 114) conducted experience-sampling about social interactions for a week. People with high self-reported empathy perceived their interactions as more meaningful, felt more positive in these interactions, and thought that their interaction partner felt also more positive. Thus, self-reported empathy was meaningfully associated with adults' actual social interactions.
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