Children whose mothers have higher levels of empathy are more likely to adopt positive social behaviour, a new study shows.
New research from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and The University of Western Australia shows that parents have an important role to play in teaching their children to understand another person’s feelings and point of view.
Lead researcher Brad Farrant from the Telethon Institute said the research investigated the factors that facilitate the development of positive social behaviour in four to six year old children.
“We found that mothers who have higher levels of empathy were more likely to encourage their children to think how others might be feeling, which in turn was associated with greater development of empathy skills in the child,” Dr Farrant said,
“Quite simply, mothers who more regularly take the perspective of others are more likely to encourage their children to do the same.”
Dr Farrant said children with more advanced perspective-taking skills behave more positively with other people.
“Parents can promote the development of their child’s perspective-taking skills by encouraging their child to take the perspective of other children. This could be as simple as asking the child to think about why another child might be angry with them,” Dr Farrant said.
The results were drawn from a study of children from three primary schools in Perth’s Western and Southern suburbs.
Dr Farrant said these latest findings reinforce the importance of parents in modelling good social behaviour in early childhood. It supports previous research that found that warm and responsive parenting in infancy also promotes the development of prosocial behaviour.
The research was published online in the journal Infant and Child Development.