Child rearing and children's prosocial initiations toward victims of distress

Child Dev. 1979 Jun;50(2):319-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1979.tb04112.x.


Maternal rearing behavior was examined in relation to children's reparation for transgressions and altruism as bystanders to distress in others. The children were 1 1/2-2 1/2 years old. Mothers were trained in techniques of observing. They recorded their child's reactions and their own behaviors in everyday encounters with expressions of distress in others (sorrow, discomfort, pain). Distress was also simulated by mothers and investigators. Mothers' empathic caregiving was rated during home visits. Mothers' affectively delivered explanations regarding the distresses their children had caused to others were associated with children's reparations for transgressions. Such explanations were also associated with children's altruism when they were bystanders to another's distress. Empathic caregiving by mothers was positively associated with children's reparation and altruism. Findings are discussed in relation to theories of altruism, conscience, and child rearing.

MeSH terms

  • Altruism*
  • Child Rearing*
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology