Date of Award

12-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Priscilla Blanton

Committee Members

John G. Orme, Brian K. Barber, Spencer Olmstead

Abstract

The world in which children develop is becoming increasingly complex and includes exposure to individuals with variations in background and identity. The development of a peaceful global community will demand empathy (compassionate perspective taking and empathic concern for the position of another person). Data examined in this study came from the Ogden Youth and Family Project. A random sample of fifth- and eighth-grade classrooms in the Ogden City School District in 1994 and 1996 provided the data examined on empathy and perceived parental support. The final sample for this study was comprised of 286 cases. Perceived Mother Support and Father Support were assessed at time one (1994) using the 10-item acceptance subscale of the 30-item version (Schludermann & Schludermann, 1970) of the Child Report of Parent Behavior Index (CRPBI; Schaefer, 1965) termed by Barber, Stolz, and Olson (2005) as Parental Support. Youth Empathy was measured using 14 items designed to address two dimensions of empathy, Perspective Taking and Empathic Concern in subscales from Davis’s (1980) self-report Interpersonal Reactivity Index. After confirming the factor structures of the scales, a path model examining how perceived Mother Support and Father Support separately influenced adolescent reported cognitive and affective empathy was tested, for the total population and for girls and boys separately. The paths from perceived Mother Support and Father Support to Empathic Concern and Perspective Taking were positive and significant for boys and girls when the sample was evaluated as a whole. When examining separate models for boys and girls, the path from perceived Mother Support in fifth grade to Perspective Taking at seventh grade was only positive and significant for girls and the path from perceived Father Support in fifth grade to Empathic Concern at seventh grade was only positive and significant for boys. The findings of this study indicated that the relationship with the same gender parent was uniquely important in early adolescence for a specific aspect of empathy, Perspective Taking for girls and Empathic Concern for boys. Links between theoretical perspectives and findings, as well as implications for future research and practice were discussed.

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