Children's intergroup empathic processing: the roles of novel ingroup identification, situational distress, and social anxiety

J Exp Child Psychol. 2010 Jun-Jul;106(2-3):115-28. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2010.01.002. Epub 2010 Mar 3.


Individuals often feel more empathy toward members of their own social groups than toward members of other social groups. However, individual factors contributing to this empathy bias remain largely unexplored among children. This study examined intergroup empathic processing among 94 children (mean age=8.74years, SD=1.76) assigned to novel color groups. After 1week in their group, children were interviewed to assess their ingroup identification and trait levels of social anxiety. Subsequently, a social threat was simulated, and children's feelings of situational distress and empathy bias for others who experienced the same threat were assessed. Findings indicated that, among children who reported more social anxiety and situational distress, those with a stronger ingroup identity displayed more empathy bias favoring their ingroup. Given that empathy is an important contributor to prosocial behavior, implications for children's intergroup relations are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Perception*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires