Associations between cognitive and affective empathy and internalizing symptoms in late childhood

Katherine O. Bray, Vicki Anderson, Christos Pantelis, Elena Pozzi, Orli S. Schwartz, Nandita Vijayakumar, Sally Richmond, Camille Deane, Nicholas B. Allen, Sarah Whittle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Empathy is a multidimensional construct, which includes cognitive and affective components. Studies in adults have demonstrated that both cognitive and affective empathy are associated with anxious and depressive symptoms. The aim of this study was to examine these associations in childhood. Methods: Participants were 127 9- and 10-year-old children, recruited from the community. Self-report measures of cognitive and affective empathy, and internalizing symptoms were administered, as well as a task-based measure of cognitive empathy. Results: Canonical correlation analysis demonstrated that components of affective empathy, specifically affective sharing and empathic distress, were associated with internalizing (particularly social anxiety) symptoms (Rc = 0.63, non-parametric p <.001). Cognitive empathy was not associated with internalizing symptoms. Limitations: Most of our findings were based around self-report measures of empathy, which may not accurately reflect empathy ability. Conclusions: Findings suggests that children who share each other's emotions strongly are more likely to experience anxiety, particularly of a social nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-253
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume290
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Affective empathy
  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Canonical correlation analysis
  • Cognitive empathy
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Mid/late childhood

Cite this