Although gender differences in affective empathy are well established, evidence of gender differences in the development of affective empathy is inconsistent. Consideration of same-sex versus other-sex affective empathy may assist in elucidating these inconsistencies. Gender differences were investigated in the experience of empathic sadness towards same- versus other-sex targets. The relationships were studied cross-sectionally (N = 730) and longitudinally (N = 318) with Dutch adolescents using the empathic sadness scale of the Index of Empathy for Children and Adolescents (IECA; Bryant 1982). In both studies, female adolescents reported more empathic sadness than did male adolescents. Female targets also received more affective empathy than did male targets, and, more importantly, gender differences were observed in same-sex versus other-sex affective empathy. Specifically, in both studies male adolescents reported less empathic sadness towards same-sex than towards other-sex targets. In contrast, female adolescents reported more empathic sadness towards same-sex than towards other-sex targets in the cross-sectional study, and equal levels of empathic sadness towards both types of targets in the longitudinal study. Findings highlight the importance of considering same-sex versus other-sex affective empathy. Gender differences in same-sex and other-sex affective empathy have implications for assisting adolescents in social conflict resolution and interventions for bullying and aggressive behaviour in adolescence using empathy training.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 27, 2016
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