Parents' use of inductive discipline: relations to children's empathy and prosocial behavior

Child Dev. 1996 Dec;67(6):3263-77.


Relations between parents' discipline, children's empathic responses, and children's prosocial behavior were examined in order to evaluate Martin Hoffman's claim that children's empathy and empathy-based guilt mediate the socialization of children's prosocial behavior. 78 sixth and seventh graders (138-172 months in age), their mothers, and teachers completed multiple measures of Hoffman's constructs. Results were largely consistent with theory. Parents' use of inductive as opposed to power-assertive discipline was related to children's prosocial behavior. Children of inductive parents were more empathic; and more empathic children were more prosocial. Moreover, children's empathy was found to mediate the relation between parents' discipline and children's prosocial behavior. Few relations were obtained for children's guilt indices, but post hoc analyses yielded theoretically consistent results. Contrary to expectations, parents' use of statements of disappointment was the component of the inductive discipline score which was most strongly related to children's prosocial behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Empathy*
  • Guilt
  • Humans
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers*
  • Parenting*
  • Social Behavior*