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Empathy Development in Adolescence Predicts Social Competencies in Adulthood

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Allemand Mathias, Steiger Andrea E., Fend Helmut A.,
Project Selbst- und Persönlichkeitsentwicklung der Adoleszenz in langfristiger Perspektive
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Personality
Page(s) 1
Title of proceedings Journal of Personality
DOI 10.1111/jopy.12098


Objective: This study explored the predictive influence of empathy development in adolescence on self-reported social competencies and outcomes in adulthood in a 23-year study. Method: Participants were 1,527 adults aged 35 years (48.3% female). The predictor variable (adolescent empathy) was measured yearly at the participants’ age of 12 to 16 years. The outcome variables (adult empathy, communication skills, social integration, relationship satisfaction, and conflicts in relationships) were measured at the age of 35 years. Results: Five important results stand out. First, longitudinal measurement invariance was established for the measure of adolescent empathy. Second, empathy tended to increase during the adolescent years. Third, significant interindividual differences in level and change of adolescent empathy were found. Fourth, gender was related to level of adolescent empathy favoring girls over boys. Fifth, not only level but also change in adolescent empathy predicted individual differences in social competencies in adulthood two decades later. Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that developmental processes that are relevant for adjustment reveal long-term social consequences beyond the adolescent years.