The Basic Empathy Scale adapted to French middle childhood: Structure and development of empathy

Behav Res Methods. 2016 Dec;48(4):1410-1420. doi: 10.3758/s13428-015-0650-8.


We adapted the adult French version of the Basic Empathy Scale to French children aged 6-11 years, in order to probe the factorial structure underlying empathy. A total of 410 children (189 girls and 221 boys) were instructed to fill out the resulting Basic Empathy Scale in Children (BES-C). Results showed that, as in adulthood, the three-factor model of empathy (i.e., emotional contagion, cognitive empathy, and emotional disconnection) was more relevant than the one- and two-factor ones. This means that as early as 6 years of age, children's responses should reflect the same organization of the three components of empathy as those of adults. In line with the literature, cognitive empathy increased and emotional disconnection decreased in middle childhood, while emotional contagion remained stable. Moreover, girls exhibited greater emotional contagion than boys, with the reverse pattern being observed for emotional disconnection. No sex difference was found regarding cognitive empathy.

Keywords: Basic Empathy Scale (BES); Child; Emotion; Emotion regulation; Empathy.

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Rating Scale / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Emotions
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sex Characteristics