Children’s Empathy Development: A Guide!

As parents, we are constantly working to educate our children about the world around them. From the moment they’re born, we want to give them the best possible foundation so they can understand and navigate the complex social landscape that they will soon be a part of. This blog article will give tips for children’s empathy development strategy.

Childhood Empathy Development

As children grow, their ability to empathize with others expands. This developmental process begins during childhood and can continue throughout one’s life. The following are five ways for children’s empathy development:

1. Children learn about other people’s feelings through interactions and observation.

2. They form relationships with family, friends, and other people in their community.

3. They develop empathy based on observing others doing or saying.

4. They become more aware of their emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

5. They develop a deeper understanding of empathy and how it works.

children's empathy
Photo by Chayene Rafaela on Unsplash

Measures of Childhood Empathy

1. Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI): The IRI measures how reactive a child is to various interpersonal stimuli. It includes how much the child reacts positively or negatively when they observe somebody else being upset, happy or enjoying themselves.

2. The Strange Situation Test (SST): The SST is designed to measure a child’s ability to understand and respond appropriately to unfamiliar situations. In this test, a stranger enters the room and engages in conversation with the mother. When the mother departs, the stranger approaches the child. After a brief interval, the mother returns and is reunited with the child. The mother and stranger leave, leaving the child to play alone. The stranger then comes back and attempts to interact with the child. The mother returns once more when the stranger leaves, reuniting with the child.

3. Emotional Contingency Scale (ECS): The ECS measures how susceptible a child is to negative emotions based on how they responded earlier in their life to positive or negative experiences. For example, if a child experiences positive reinforcement often (e.g., parents praise them for doing a good job), they are likely to have a low ECS score. Conversely, if a child experiences negative reinforcement often (e.g., parents scold them for making mistakes), they are likely to have a high ECS score.

Effects of Children’s Empathy on Behavior

Children with much empathy develop better social skills and are more likely to act kindly and compassionately. They also tend to be more sensitive to the feelings of others, which can make them better at understanding and communicating with others. Growing up with lots of empathy is generally linked with positive outcomes in life, such as being happier, healthier, and more successful.

One study looked at the effects of childhood empathy on behavior. The researchers asked 133 adults to describe their childhoods, noting how much empathy they had displayed. They then asked these adults to complete a modified version of the Empathy Quotient (EQ) test. The EQ measures how well someone understands other people’s emotions.

Those who scored high on the EQ were also more likely to behave altruistically – that is, they were less likely to take advantage of or harm other people – in both lab experiments and real-life tasks involving interpersonal interactions.

The findings suggest that growing up with a lot of empathy benefits behavior across different situations. This suggests that interventions designed to increase empathy in children may have broader benefits for social behavior overall.

early children's empathy development
Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash


Building an empathetic relationship with your child is one of the most important things you can do to help them grow into healthy and successful adults. By understanding how empathy works and with the right children’s empathy development strategy, you will be able to provide them with the foundation they need for a lifetime of positive relationships.

Also read: Parenting Tips During Child’s Adolescent Phase

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