Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Socialization Processes toward Children and Adolescents for Developing Empathy, Sympathy and Prosocial Behaviors

Written By

Turhan Şengönül

Submitted: June 10th, 2017 Reviewed: January 17th, 2018 Published: June 20th, 2018

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.74132

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Edited by Rosalba Morese, Sara Palermo and Juri Nervo

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This chapter addresses the socialization processes for the development of empathy, sympathy and prosocial behaviors in children and adolescents. Democratic or authoritative socialization practices contribute to prosocial development. Parental support, warmth and sensitivity, parental induction and inductive reasoning, parental demandingness and control have been associated with empathy, sympathy and behavior in children and adolescents. Parental warmth/responsiveness can develop a secure attachment between the parent and the child. Securely attached children tend to be responsive to parental controls and more eager learners and prosocial during the socialization process. Parents may foster behavior in children by modeling and concerning for the needs of others. Parents may induce perspective-taking, empathy and sympathy in their children and adolescents by pointing out the beneficial or harmful consequences of their actions through inductive reasoning and explanations. Parental inductive reasoning and explanations can lead to empathy-based guilt in them by highlighting consequences of the deviating behavior in the children and adolescents for the victim. Children and adolescents can attend to and care about parental messages, internalize prosocial values of their parents, socialize to acquire prosocial behavior when parents behave warmly, responsively and supportively and use inductive reasoning and explanations for their children and adolescents in socialization practices.


  • parental warmth/responsiveness
  • inductive reasoning
  • empathy
  • sympathy
  • prosocial behavior

1. Introduction

Theorists and researchers have discussed that parents socialize children and adolescents for the development of empathy, sympathy and prosocial behavior. They contribute to prosocial development of children and adolescents through definite socialization practices. Democratic or authoritative parenting includes socialization practices such as parental support, warmth and sensitivity combined with parental induction and reasoning, demandingness and control [1, 2]. Support and demandingness or control are identified as two dimensions in parental behaviors in socialization process [3]. Parental support or warmth and responsiveness are displayed in interactions with the children in socialization practices and refer to the positive affection in parent-child relationships [4]. Warmth and responsivity reflect parental supportive, affectionate and sensitive attitude and behavior to the needs of the children and entail approvals and positive emotions and behaviors for the children [5]. Certain socialization practices have been related to prosocial and moral development [3, 6, 7]. Parental inductions and parent modeling as well as parental warmth contribute to prosocial development in children. Parents try to socialize their children to behave in prosocial ways by using inductive reasoning, particularly by using other-oriented reasoning and focusing on the needs of others and by eschewing firm control practices, punitive techniques in relations and interactions with children [8]. Democratic or authoritative parents can perform socialization practices such as explaining rules to the children, reasoning with the children, listening to the needs of the children, considering their arguments, respecting differences in opinions and finding solutions that take into consideration the wishes of the children, showing interest and participating in activities and experiences of the children. These parents not only accept and love their children but also exert the necessary hierarchical control or authority [9]. Parents give direct messages about positive and negative consequence of particular behaviors for their children by verbal reasoning through inductions [10]. Parental inductions that include a supportive parenting practice provide explanations to help children understand the positive or negative consequences of their actions [11]. Parents use inductions and encourage or model prosocial behaviors and give explanations for expected prosocial behaviors from their children [1]. Children can be more receptive to socialization practices to foster concern for others when parents model other-oriented behavior and elicit or encourage affection and connectedness toward their children [8]. Theorists and researchers have argued empathy because it is a motivating component of prosocial behaviors. Empathy is defined as an affective response that stems from understanding emotional state or condition of another by identifying what the other person is feeling or by feeling similar to what the other person is feeling. It implies eliciting an emotional reaction that is highly similar to affective state or condition of another person [12, 13]. Empathy refers to perceiving, imagining and inferring affective state or condition of another [14]. A person empathizes with him when he/she perceives or imagines affect of the other person [15]. Empathy implies the ability to understand and respond to the unique emotional experiences of another individual [16]. An individual empathize with others when an individual observes or imagines affective state of another person and feels the isomorphic affective state of the other person and he/she knows that affective state of the other person is the source of his/her own affective state [17]. Researchers have asserted that an individual try to understand the emotions and behaviors of others by activating neural representations corresponding to those states. A representation of that state is activated automatically in this person when he/she observes or imagines another person in a neuroscientific model of empathy [18]. Shared neural representations play an important role in understanding cognitive states of the other people and provide capacity to simulate their corresponding affective or cognitive states [19]. Vicariously feeling pain awakes the neural network in a person that is activated when he/she experiences pain in his/herself [17]. Empathy indicates similarity between the experienced feelings of an individual and feelings expressed by other individuals. It includes an emotional response to another person that requires sharing emotional state of the person and a cognitive ability to take the perspective of the other person and observing mechanisms that catch the origins of the experienced feelings in self and other. Empathy indicates the capacity to feel or imagine vicariously cognitive or emotional experience of another person and it includes both affective and cognitive components. Cognitive empathy requires using information retained in mind or memory. It refers to perspective-taking and the capacity to cognitively understand internal situations and cognitions of other persons. Cognitive empathy refers to the ability to accurately imagine experience of another and assume the perspective of a person through mind or perspective-taking theory. It is described through a person representing the internal mental state of another individual as cognitive empathy to theory of mind. Cognitive empathy requires an ability to effectively recognize emotions of another and to deeply understand a distressing situation [15, 16]. The cognitive ability to correctly perceive internal state of another person is referred to as empathic accuracy [20], empathy, emotional contagion or affective resonance with feeling as another person feels [21]. Affective empathy implies the ability to vicariously feel the emotional experience of the other people while cognitive empathy refers to comprehending experience of the other people. It means the ability to be responsive to and vicariously experience the feelings of other individuals. Affective empathy refers to appropriately responding to emotions of the other persons and indicates emotional contagion and the ability to catch feelings from observed affective situations of the other persons. Affective empathy refers to an individual attempt to understand their emotional show such as body movements and facial and vocal expressions of another person [22]. It entails individual vicariously experiencing of the emotional state of others and experiencing a vicarious emotional response to emotions expressed by others [23]. An individual tries to understand cognitive and emotional situation of another person based on auditory, visual and situational cues in the other person. Affective empathy involves swiftly recognizing emotions in the other person on the basis of his/her sound states, body gestures and facial expressions. An individual can respond to situation of the other person and correctly identify with the emotional state of the other person by feeling and reflecting emotional experience of the other person in self. Empathic situation of a person may then be stated through verbal or affective expressions or by exhibiting sympathy and providing comfort or aid to the other person. Empathy is connected with concepts such as imitating, emotional contagion, compassion and sympathy. Imitating or emotional contagion precedes empathy that is foremost for sympathy and compassion, which can precede prosocial behavior. Imitating and emotional contagion may contribute substantially to an empathic response [17]. Persons can imitate corresponding affective expressions when they perceive affective facial expressions of the other persons such as smiling or frowning [24]. Imitating enables an individual to understand and share emotions of the other [25]. Emotional contagion also implies the inclination to catch emotions of the other people [26]. Theorists have argued that empathy can lead to sympathy that means concern or sorrow for another based on perceiving and understanding their emotional state by orienting and focusing on the others. Sympathy is defined as emotional response that is oriented to another based on the understanding of negative emotional state of another. It involves feelings of concern and the desire to alleviate the negative emotions experienced by the others in distress [27]. Sympathy results in a motivation to relieve the negative emotions experienced by the other person in distress [28, 29]. A person can behave in prosocial or altruistic ways and help the other person by a desire to alleviate the negative arousal by feeling the other experiencing negative emotions in distress [21]. Sympathy and internalized norms/principles are seen as the two primary motives for altruistic actions [1]. Empathic concern orients others and involves feeling for the others. Compassion states a dimension of morality that emphasizes interpersonal responsibility, ethical behavior and concern for the well-being of others in distress. Individuals can develop sympathy and understand distressful situations of others by empathizing others. Sympathy that means compassion feelings for others motivates prosocial behavior [30, 31]. Sympathy, empathic concern and compassion do not necessarily require shared feelings, while empathy entails feelings that are in an isomorphic way to feelings of the other person. Empathizing with a person in distress can lead to a feeling of distress in the self, whereas sympathizing associated with empathy or feeling compassion for a sad person may result in compassionate love for the person. When an individual realizes that a person is jealous of him, he cannot begin feeling jealous himself though he may exhibit sympathy or compassion for the jealous person [15]. Empathic concern, sympathy and compassion have sometimes been addressed as synonymous [14]. Empathy has usually been associated with prosocial and altruistic and other-oriented motivations in order to increase well-being or welfare of the other person. Although empathy does not necessarily arouse such motivations, examples of empathy in real-life may leave a prosocial tendency. A tormentor can use empathy in order to enhance suffering of his victim to operate warfare in sports or business environments. An individual may think the negative effects of an action for the rival person and behaves selfishly instead of prosocial, other-oriented behavior as he/she experiences too much empathy. When a person generally empathizes with other, he/she starts with affect sharing by understanding with the feelings of the other person and then motivates prosocial, other-oriented action and engages in helping behavior [17]. Emotions influence prosocial behaviors in children and youths. Emotions, particularly empathy-related emotions, play an important role in developing prosocial values, motives and behaviors in socialization processes. Persons perceive self and other when feeling empathic concern. Children can develop personal distress or sympathetic distress after they perceive the self-other distinction by feeling empathy for the others. Empathy motivates altruistic behavior and similar prosocial behavior [21]. Empathy facilitates caring actions such as sympathizing, helping, sharing, providing physical comfort that reflect concern for the well-being of others [1]. It characterizes an ideal mechanism that underlies caring behavior that respond to pain, need or distress of another [21, 32]. Individuals display sympathy and altruistic responding when they take the view point of another. Perspective-taking encourages sympathy and the performance of prosocial behavior [33]. Individuals may identify, understand and sympathize with distress or needs of others via perspective-taking skills [34]. These skills can provide accurately understanding emotional reactions of others and develop empathy and sympathy and consequently prosocial behavior [13].

Theorists and researchers have discussed prosocial behaviors. The prosocial personality is described as a tendency to feel concern and empathy for other people, a behavior that helps and benefits them and an approach that think about the rights and welfare of other people. Individuals can exhibit prosocial personality when they feel empathy and sympathy and have other-oriented values and cognitions [35]. Prosocial behavior is defined as voluntary action that intends to help or benefit others in need [13, 36]. Prosocial behavior does not aim at personal gain or concrete or social rewards or the avoidance of punishment. Internal motives such as internalized values and moral principles or concern and empathy, sympathy for others motivate prosocial or altruistic behavior [36, 37]. Prosocial behavior may occur altruistic, public, anonymous, emotional, dire and compliant prosocial behavior in ways through different situations and motivations. People can exhibit public prosocial behavior as helping behavior in the presence of others and carry out anonymous behavior without the knowledge of others. They display dire prosocial behavior as helping behavior in crisis situations and show emotional prosocial behavior aimed at comforting another in emotionally evocative situations [30]. Prosocial tendencies aim to meet the needs of others and promote the well-being of others. People can prevent another coming to harm and react spontaneously to events they witness and exhibit reparative behavior after causing some distress to another and respond compliantly to solicitations for assistance by displaying concern for others. For example, prosocial behaviors are characterized acts such as a child offering his toy to a crying infant, a preschooler inviting a peer to play a game, a child comforting a classmate who falls and gets injured or a teenage volunteering for an organization that delivers meals to the poor [38]. The diverse motivations may lead to prosocial behaviors. The individuals can behave in prosocial ways because they expect rewards, social approval, reciprocity, fear repercussions for not being prosocial or alleviate distress of another [37].


2. Parenting styles in socialization process

Theorists have argued that parenting styles in authoritative, permissive and authoritarian practices. The permissive parents accept, approve and do not punish impulses, desires and actions of the children. They exhibit extreme responsiveness to the requests of the children and rarely try to control them. The authoritarian parents tend strictly to control and punish the attitudes and behavior of the children. The authoritative parents also try to approach activities of the children with a rational attitude. The authoritative parents display responsiveness to the needs of the children and exert control on them. Both authoritative and authoritarian parents are demanding towards their children. The authoritative parents reason with the children and offer explanations, while the authoritarian parents expect their children to accept values and judgments of the parents without questioning [39]. Democratic or authoritative parents who are warm toward avoid rigidly rejecting and harshly punishing their children. They behave both flexibly and responsive to desires of children and expect maturity from their children and control them [1]. Warm and supportive parents interact warmly and affectionately with them by often smiling at, praising and encouraging their children. They avoid criticizing, punishing and disapproving children and provide more praise than criticism. Parents who are rated high on warmth tend to be responsive to the needs and desires of their children and deeply commit to welfare of their children. They spend more time and enjoy shared activities with their children. Warm parents exhibit more active concern, involvement and affection, caretaking and playful joking behavior toward their children. Accepting parents nurture, support and love their children [40, 41]. Parents exhibit responsiveness and attune to the needs of their children and serve as a secure base when children experience discomfort or stress [42]. Barnett [43] has suggested that parental warmth is a criterion for socialization regarding empathy. Parents can empathize with their children when they satisfy own emotional needs of the children and encourage the children to experience and express broadly their emotions and provides opportunities for the children to observe and interact with others and impede excessive self-concern. Parental warmth provides an optimal environment for socialization because children may attend to and care about more pleasing their parents when the relationships generally are supportive [44]. Parental warmth/responsiveness can develop a secure attachment between the caregiver and the child. Support leads to children feeling secure and minimizing self-concern [45, 46]. Attachment relationships begin to develop when parents are consistently sensitive to their children’s crises or their needs and they respond consistently, sensitively and appropriately to distressed children [47]. Securely attached children exhibit behaviors consistent with a loving, trusting relationship with their parents. They can be upset by the absence of the parent and be calm by the presence of the parent and feel comfortable enough to explore their surroundings. Children with secure attachments tend to differentially attend and orient positively their parents and want to please them. They are familiar with and reproduce their actions and accord with values, expectations of their parents. Children with secure attachments tend to be responsive to parental controls and wish to avoid undesired and deviated behaviors [45]. Children may pay more attention to them, look forward to interacting with them, feel secure in the relationship and thus be more eager learners during the socialization process when they seem happy in their relationships with their parents. These tendencies may enhance the effectiveness of parental attempts that encourage and foster empathy, sympathy and prosocial behaviors [48, 49]. The quality of early attachments fosters sympathetic responding within the parent-child relationships because it plays an important role in developing connections to others and positive valuing other people’s characteristics [50]. Children who internalize secure relationship qualities engage empathically with others and prepare to act on behalf of others [51]. Children with secure attachment histories can empathize with the plight of that person when they see someone experiencing distress. These children with secure attachments who have warm parents might be more prosocial. Parents may bring up the children who engage with and respond to the needs of others by displaying sensitivity, giving reliable responses toward their children and relieving them from distress [38]. Dimensions of parenting styles not only include parental warmth/responsiveness but also parental demandingness or control in socialization process. Parental demandingness or control indicates the degree of strictness and behavioral standards expressed by parents for their children [52]. Parents who engage in authoritative parenting exercise control by combining with warmth, nurturance, democracy and open parent-child communication [3]. Parents play a major role in displaying leadership and knowledge, determining rules and providing care by exerting their own authority. They accept and respect their children. The rational-authoritative model balances control with warmth and judicious demands with responsiveness; it rejects the false polarity between indulgence and tyranny in child-rearing ideology. Authoritative parents tend to be both more demanding and more responsive, in contrast with authoritarian parents [53]. Parents set high behavioral standards and monitor their children more closely when they place strict demands on their children. Demanding parents might rear children who strongly internalize moral values [54]. These parents set firm controls on their behavior for their children [55] and apply or justify firm control by rationally explaining consistently enforced rules [53]. Parents who exhibit authoritative or democratic attitudes and behaviors strongly demand maturity and listen to viewpoints of their children and even adjust their behavior accordingly [55]. These parents remain receptive to the views of the children and guide firmly children for their actions. Authoritative parents communicate friendly and use reasoning and discuss rationally with their children as tutorial and disciplinary in socialization practices. They emphasize the rights and responsibilities in children [53]. Democratic parents carry out socialization practices such as using less coercive methods and explaining rules, offering reasons for desired behavior, pointing out the hurtful actions of children hold for others, asking children to perform up to their ability, giving children the opportunity to make their own decisions and expecting mature behavior and a high level of responsibility [2].


3. Method, data collection technique and research process in the studies examined

Researchers obtain data via methods such as observing parents and children as they watch empathy inducing clips, videotaping empathy shows during interactions between parent and child, parents and children responding to questions that relate to empathy and observing parents and children engaging with stories meant to produce empathic responses. They collect data as nonverbal self-report measure as well as verbal reports by observing and interviewing children and their parents, using measures such as the Authoritative Parenting index [56], the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (the HOME inventory) [57], the Prosocial Tendencies Measure-Revised (PTM-R; [58]) and Prosocial Reasoning Objective Measure (PROM; [59]). Participants are asked to rate the degree to which statements that describe parent-child interactions in their families in order to obtain data concerning warmth/responsiveness or strictness/demandingness as components in authoritative parenting style. Parental warmth and demandingness are described as the Authoritative Parenting index [56] and the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (the HOME inventory) [57]. Parental warmth is measured via items such as “parent makes the child feel better when something is wrong,” “parent shows interest in child,” “parent physically expresses affection (e.g., hugging, kissing, holding)” and “parent shows patience with the child” while demandingness is assessed by statements such as “parent clearly states rules to be followed,” “parent provides instructions to the child for appropriate behavior” and “parent has high expectations of child’s behavior.” The extent of responsiveness is reflected through statements such as “my parents help me with my school work if there is something I don’t understand.” The extent of strictness is also identified by statements such as “my parents really know what I do with my free time.” Prosocial behaviors are obtained through observing the children at preschool and at the laboratory, as well as self, parent and friend reports depending on the time point. Researchers use the Prosocial Tendencies Measure-Revised in order to determine prosocial behaviors of the participants (PTM-R; [58]). Prosocial behaviors are measured via items such as “You feel that if you help someone, they should help you in the future,” “You can help others best when people are watching you,” “It makes you feel good when you can comfort someone who is very upset,” “You tend to help people who are in a real crisis or need,” “You prefer to donate money without anyone knowing” and “You never wait to help others when they ask for it.” Prosocial moral reasoning in participants is assessed by using the Prosocial Reasoning Objective Measure (PROM; [59]). Prosocial moral reasoning is defined as reasoning about dilemmas in which one person’s needs, wants or desires conflict with those of another in a context in the absence of laws, norms, rules, punishment, authorities and formal obligations [60]. Prosocial Reasoning Objective Measure (PROM); Carlo, Eisenberg, and Knight [59] contains five stories designed to invoke a conflict between the wants, needs and desires of the protagonist and those of a needy other. These story dilemmas dealt with (1) getting an injured child’s parents versus going to a friend’s party, (2) keeping food after a flood versus giving food to others so that others have some, (3) helping handicapped children strengthen their legs by teaching them to swim versus practicing for a swimming contest to win prize money, (4) continuing to play in his or her yard versus trying to stop a bully that is picking on a peer and (5) donating blood across an extended period of time to a needy other versus missing time at school and money at work. For example, a story dilemma present to participants: One day Mary was going to the party of a friend. She saw a girl who had fallen down and hurt her leg. The girl asked Mary to go to the house of the girl and get her parents so the parents could come and take her to a doctor. But if Mary did run and get parents of the girl, Mary would be late to the party and miss the fun and social activities with her friends. After reading each story, participants are first asked to indicate whether the protagonist (a) should help the needy other, (b) should not help the needy other or (c) whether they were not sure what the protagonist should do (the PROM; [59]). Participants are asked to rate the importance of each of the reasoning items on why the protagonist should or should not help the needy other in the story. The PROM items are selected on the basis of frequently reported prosocial moral reasoning responses to the open-ended interview format measure of prosocial moral reasoning. Participants can use (1) hedonistic reasoning that promotes own needs or desires of one, (2) approval-oriented reasoning in order to please others, (3) needs-oriented reasoning that focuses primarily on concern for the physical and psychological needs of others, (4) stereotypic reasoning that base on expected behaviors and (5) internalized reasoning in terms of personal beliefs and principles. Child-rearing behavior is also assessed using the information obtained from observations at home and interviews with the parents. For example, in school, the children are individually told three stories containing conflicts, which the child is asked to solve. The parents are observed while working together with their children on two puzzles in order to record the parenting style. Both puzzles are quite difficult for the children to complete alone. Parents are told to help their children without touching the pieces of the puzzle. Parental verbal behavior is coded in three categories as support, authoritative control and restrictive control [2]. Support indicates behaviors that include offering help, active concern, sympathy, affection and encouragement with statements such as “It is good.” or “It is difficult, isn’t it?” Authoritative control refers to behaviors that contain giving explanations or suggestions, asking questions stimulating the children about a solution with statements such as “Maybe you should try to find corners first.” or “How should the block at the corner look like?” Restrictive control describes behaviors that include negative commands, restrictions, explicit or implicit commands or orders with statements such as “Don’t do that” or “Put it down.” Following the observation session, the researchers present each parent with 10 hypothetical child-rearing situations that involve failures to act prosocially such as hurting the children, teasing the peers or being teased. The parents are then asked to imagine that the main character of each story is their own child and are asked questions regarding how to deal with the hypothetical situation. The anticipated strategies are coded in three categories. (1) Support includes behaviors such as physical affection, praising the children, comforting the children, accepting offers of the children and showing understanding for behavior of the children with statements such as “I know it must be difficult for you.” (2) Authoritative control indicates behaviors such as asking and giving explanations; pointing out their consequences and behaviors of the children for others, explanations referring to needs or motives of others; stimulating the children to take perspective of the other; encouraging the children to solve the problem on their own, or to think about a solution, or to make a decision; reminding the children of their own or mutually agreed decisions and pointing out own responsibility of the children for their behavior, references to social or moral values and norms with statements such as “You must learn to share with others.” (3) Restrictive control indicates behaviors such as isolating or ignoring the children, reprimands, disapprovals, reproaches, directives, imperatives, physical punishment, deprivation of privileges and threats of punishment with statements such as “If you do it again, I will hit you” [2].


4. Findings and discussions

4.1. Findings and discussions related to socialization processes toward children and adolescents for developing empathy, sympathy and prosocial behaviors

Researchers have argued that parental inductions and explanations are an important disciplinary practice to attain prosocial behaviors. Parental conversations or inductive reasoning point to the needs of others, communicate notions regarding moral issues and broaden social perspectives in children [61]. Parents socialize their children to attain prosocial behaviors by highlighting the needs or well-being of others, illuminating their effects and actions of children on others, explaining why rules are necessary and informing children about norms and principles [38]. Parents can promote more prosocial behaviors in children by directly teaching the children about right and wrong in social relationships and by pointing out the social norms, rules or expectations and the considerations and their consequences and behaviors of individuals on others through they use inductive reasoning [3, 62]. Parental inductions appeal justice and legitimate authorities in order to be fair to consequences and behavior of the children for another or provide moralistic information and non-moralistic information [63]. Children may increase their understanding of their own agency, responsibility to avoid harm and ability to make reparations because inductions clarify cause-and-effect relations such as the adverse effects of hurtful actions and because inductions can lead to emphasizing the needs of other persons serve to clarify understanding of children about situations of others when it gives necessary support for children to attain ability to identify distress of others [38]. Researchers asserted that inductive reasoning and explanations induce an optimal arousing level for learning prosocial behaviors. Other-oriented inductive reasoning techniques point out their effects and behaviors of the children on others by giving explanations such as “if you push him, he’ll fall and cry,” “don’t yell at him, he was only trying to help” or “he feels bad because he was proud of his tower and you knocked it down” ([64], p. 247). When moderately arousing children through inductive reasoning and explanations, they orient their parents and do not feel fear or anger of punishment and more effectively attend to socialization message of the parents. Children can attend to and process and internalize the information, meaning embedded in inductive statements and messages transmitted by parents because inductive reasoning can arouse enough to elicit attention and do not produce high anxiety or anger levels in children [54, 63]. Children over time experience and internalize inductive messages and may remember the causal link between their actions and consequences for others because they play an active role in processing the information and in encoding and integrating with information contained in other inductions and because inductions focus on action of the children and its consequences. Children can experience emotions of empathy and guilt when they recall the stored information at later time in a similar situation [63]. Parental inductions encourage children to think about how their misbehaviors hurt another person in a less coercive atmosphere that does not lead to fear and anger in children [65]. Children experience guilt for their deviating behaviors that harm to another and feel another’s negative emotion by inductions focusing children’s attention on consequences of their behavior for others. Parental induction motivates children to pay attention to harm or distress of the victim. It can help to promote empathy in the offending children toward a victim or a hurt person. Inductions and explanations may induce empathy-based guilt in the children by specifically highlighting consequences of the deviating behavior in the children for the victim such as a peer or the parent and by concentrating on the consequences and behavior of the children for the parent or for the other person. Children evoke an empathic response when they understand themselves are the cause of that harm or distress. Children empathize with the victim and try repair the harm or to relieve the distress by experiencing empathic distress and an affectively unpleasant and cognitive self-blaming or guilt response [66]. The values are internalized through empathy-based guilt that can lead to a moral emotion. Prosocial motives and behavior especially among highly empathic adolescents associate with guilt. Feelings of empathy and concern lead to altruistic motivation and feelings of guilt motivate reparative actions [13, 63, 67]. Parents may lead to children and adolescents experiencing positive and guilt emotions by using inductive socialization practices [68, 69]. Children and adolescents can better focus the parental message and increase accepting the parental message, thereby promote internalizing the values through they feel a positive and guilt-related response toward inductive reasoning and explanation [54, 69]. The effectiveness of inductive reasoning and likelihood of internalizing parental messages depends on children perceiving the messages accurately, that is, understanding the rules expressed in the message, intentions, investment of the parent in the messages and children accepting the messages. Children can perceive and accept the messages accurately when parental messages are clear, redundant and consistent and comply with developmental levels of the children, and the messages motivate them and they believe messages. Parents contribute prosocial development through children’s internalizing parental expectations and societal values in socialization processes [70]. According to researchers children understand and accept its use when they perceive inductive discipline as appropriate [54]. Hoffman [63] asserted that some pressure is sometimes needed to perform an effective induction. It directs the children toward more self-oriented concerns and away from the consequences of their actions for the victim because the frequent use of power assertive and love-withdrawal techniques can elicit anger and fear of punishment or invoke fear of reduction/loss of parental love. Some children can be more incline to stop, attend and process inductive messages when the messages are made more salient with the occasional use of power assertion. Adolescents perceive and evaluate appropriately, favorably induction. When parenting practices are perceived as appropriate, adolescents tend to experience positive and guilt-related reactions [69], as children grow older, guilt-related experiences become more internalized and moral identity [71]. The adolescents increase the likelihood that they pay attention to, accept and internalize the parental messages in socialization practices when they favorably evaluated induction as fair and appropriate [13, 54, 68, 72, 73]. Adolescents may pay particular attention to perceive discipline techniques when parents express disappointment expectations within the induction category. Parental socialization practices can be effective for adolescents help to understand the reflections of their deviating behaviors for others by expressing disappointment. When adolescents view disappointment as appropriate, this increases their receptivity toward the parent and motivate the person to engage in the reflective process in socialization process. Adolescents who receive parental feedbacks favorably may reflect on the disappointment of parents and feel disappointment in their self for not living up to an ideal personality [74]. Adolescents who perceive messages to the disappointed expectations of their parents as fair may develop and internalize moral values. They feel guilt over their deviating behaviors that harm others and appropriate disappointed expectations of their parents. Parental inductions convey messages toward adolescents to make better behaviors and behave appropriately [75]. Parents contribute adolescents in order to develop a good personality or morality by expressing disappointment. Researchers found that 10th graders were higher in moral self-relevance scores than the younger students. Students in early and mid-adolescence began to use moral principles and qualities to depict and appraise the self [76]. For adolescents who do experience parental disappointment and who react with positive and guilt emotions or view these expressions as appropriate or fair, there is a greater likelihood of high morality. Researchers indicate that this finding relates to the broader positive relationship found between parental disappointment and prosocial action [46, 67]. Adolescents who received inductive reasoning and explanations as their primary discipline and those who evaluated appropriately or fairly inductive reasoning and explanations responded with positive and guilt-related emotion to this technique in parental socialization practices and felt that generally accepted by the parent also reported higher morality. Perceiving inductive discipline as favorable facilitates the impact of this technique on morality and prosocial values. Evaluating induction as appropriate or fair and with positive or guilt-related emotion may make adolescents more receptive to this technique, thereby increasing its effectiveness in value transmission [77]. Adolescents espoused more values consistent with those socialization practices or authoritative parenting style of their parents when their parents carried out authoritative parenting style or socialization practices [78]. The authoritative parenting style that entails prominently using inductions facilitates internalizing values and develops moral identity among adolescents over time [79]. Hoffman asserted that parental warmth is essential for modeling and inductions to take effect and should use and blend frequent inductions, occasionally power assertions and more affection in order to socialize children [63]. When parental modeling of prosocial behaviors was accompanied by parental warmth, children could internalize and engage in the prosocial behaviors. Modeling or observational learning as well as inductions or verbal reasoning plays a significant role in developing prosocial behaviors in children. According to social learning theory, children may learn through observing and imitating the behaviors they see in others, such as their parents [80]. Most human behavior is learned through observation or modeling [80]. Children who exposed to models of prosocial behavior can emulate those acts especially when they see positive consequences for the models they observe [81]. Parents socialize their children to behave prosocially by providing information about expected and desirable behaviors and modeling, encouraging prosocial behavior and pointing out appropriate behavior by constituting an effective environment or atmosphere that stimulate empathy development [63, 82]. Parents may foster prosocial behaviors in children by modeling and concerning for the needs of others through they engage in volunteer work or care and help the other person in distress. Parents increase the likelihood that the children will emulate behaviors of their parents by conveying prosocial messages and fostering a connection toward children. Researchers found that children could engage in prosocial behaviors themselves when they saw their parents engaged in prosocial behaviors such as philanthropic and volunteering behaviors and doing chores in the home [83]. Parental modeling of volunteer behaviors was positively correlated with volunteerism in their children [84, 85]. In a large survey research, adolescents engaged in volunteerism when parents monitored activities of adolescents. Adolescents who reported that their parents closely monitored their activities subsequently could exhibit more engagement in volunteer community work [86]. Stukas and his colleagues [87] indicated that students who reported that their parents modeled helping behaviors could have more altruistic personality and become helpful people in the future. In another study, mothers had children who could volunteer their time more to aid a patient child when they were more empathetic and sympathetic. Mothers had daughters who had prosocial personality than daughters/children of mothers who did not win score as highly when they had high score in empathy concern [88]. Similarly, mothers with more empathic children significantly empathized highly with the others. They exhibited more empathy and understanding for their children and followed more prosocial goals than mothers of children who won lower score on empathy scales [89]. Supportive parents transmit the desires and tendencies to take their perspective and to empathize and sympathize with their experiences and feelings toward their children. Hence, supportive parents themselves take perspective and empathize and sympathize with children within the parent-child relationships or interactions and can model empathic capacities for their children [90]. Parental warmth or affection was linked with prosocial characteristics in children [91]. Children can attend to and care about parental messages when parents behave warmly and supportively toward their children in socialization practices. Thereby parental warmth enhances socialization for children [92]. Children may attend more to their behaviors when their parents are warm. Children who need to feel the security of a warm, loving relationship attend to the behaviors modeled by their parents [93]. Parental warmth plays an essential role in prosocial moral development for children by increasing the positive emotional bond between parents and children that facilitated children’s attention to and regarded for messages from their parents about prosocial behaviors. Children internalize their parents’ values about prosocial behavior when parents convey warmth to them [63]. Children can more understand and internalize prosocial values when parents behave warmly, responsively for their children and respond to their prosocial behaviors that children perceive as appropriate [94]. Warm or accepting parents use authoritative parenting or inductive discipline [13, 92]. Theorists and researchers have argued that this increases the effectiveness of parental inductions and enhances the likelihood that they attend to, accept and internalize the socialization or inductive messages and values when parents use inductive discipline by exhibiting warmth toward their children and adolescents [13, 54, 71]. Inductive messages seemed to be more effective when received by adolescents who perceived the parents as generally warm and accepting, thereby fostered their morality. When inductions used in the context of a warm parent-child relationship has been linked to prosocial behavior and moral values of children and adolescents [13, 92, 95]. Hoffman asserted that nurturance or warmth fosters the children’s receptivity to parental inductive reasoning and explanations [96] and hence the effectiveness of the parent’s messages in socialization practices [54]. Authoritative parenting style or inductive reasoning and explanations entail reciprocal trust and caring [97]. Thus, parental induction may promote internalization or facilitate morality to the self via the children generally feels accepted or loved by the parent. The insecure bond or lack of emotional attachment between the parent and child may hinder transmitting moral values [98]. Parental feelings toward children and discipline practices of parents predict prosocial behavior. Children exhibit more prosocial behaviors when parents orient more positively the affect and discipline toward their children. The more parents direct negatively the affect and discipline toward their children, the lower prosocial behaviors are displayed by their children [1]. Supportive parenting style facilitates prosocial behaviors because warm parenting or socialization practices tend to foster perspective-taking, empathy, emotional sensitivity and behaviors aimed at helping others [43]. Researchers indicated that parental affection positively related to empathy in children [5] and that the empathy experienced at a certain time associated with the desire to help the victim. They found that empathy correlated with prosocial behavior in the children aged 5–13 years [99]. Components such as parental warmth, connectedness, reciprocal parent-child positive engagement and happy emotional climate associated with prosocial tendencies reported by kindergartners [100]. Janssens and Dekovic [2] found that democratic or authoritative parenting style that includes parental warmth, support, responsiveness, nurturance with demandingness and induction could develop prosocial behavior in children. They examined 125 children within aged 6–11 years and their parents in their homes. Children choose between satisfying their own needs and needs of others by reasoning concerning prosocial moral dilemmas. Pratt et al. [95] found that inductions play an effective role in inculcating the morality to the self as children reach and enter adolescence via they conducted a research on contributions of parenting practices to prosocial development in adolescents ranged from 13 to 21 years. Parental inductions become an effective socialization practice to internalize values and foster the morality in adolescents. Adolescents adopt values consistent with those of their parents through suggesting an appropriation, internalization or value transmission when their parents carry out authoritative parenting style or inductive reasoning. Warmth and strictness that included the authoritative socialization practices predicted the similarity of values between adolescents and parents. Authoritative parents tried to acquire prosocial, moral values and social responsibility in their ideals for the adolescent by emphasizing values such as good citizen, honest/truthful, trustworthy, fair and just, kind and caring, shows integrity. Both parent and peer value emphases perceived by the adolescent played an important role in relations between parenting style and own values of adolescents. When parents were seen as more authoritative to emphasize social responsibility in their ideals for the adolescent, this perceived emphasis by parents could mediate any relations between parenting style and an adolescent’s focusing more on moral qualities or endorsing a moral, socially responsible ideal personality for the self [95]. In a study conducted by Carlo and her colleagues [11] examined the impact of parental inductions on prosocial behavior in the early adolescent. They determined a sample of 207 Mexican American children and 108 European American fourth and fifth grade elementary school students. The adolescent participants filled out a questionnaire designed to measure their own prosocial tendencies. Researchers found that parent inductions were significantly positively related to prosocial behaviors. Supportive parenting practices containing verbal reasoning enhanced ability to engage in perspective-taking in children and instilled prosocial values in socialization process for children. A similar study conducted by Shen and his colleagues [10] also examined 504 early adolescents, including 106 European Americans, 202 Mexican Americans and 196 Taiwanese in the fifth or sixth grade. Researchers investigated the influence of induction or parent socializing behaviors on early adolescent using prosocial moral reasoning that entailed giving judgments to assist another person in need, in the absence of norms and rules about helping through perspective-taking and sympathy. Perspective-taking and sympathy of early adolescents were measured using the perspective-taking and sympathy subscales of the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index [101]. The results of the study indicated that parental inductions were associated with prosocial moral reasoning in early adolescent children and predicted prosocial moral reasoning indirectly through the increased perspective-taking and sympathy of the adolescents as the mediating processes. In their studies, Krevans and Gibbs [67] revealed that parental induction positively correlated with empathy and prosocial behavior in children. Inductions stimulated prosocial behaviors by emphasizing how parents and others reacted to behaviors of children through reasoning and explanations. Authoritative parents could lead to more moral reasoning, moral conscience and prosocial behaviors in children by using inductive socialization practices that referred to verbal reasoning and explanations. Children and adolescents tended to experience more vicarious empathy and guilt when their parents used more inductive socialization practices [67]. Parental sensitive behavior was viewed as the important condition for predicting empathy in children. Parents treated their children with sensitivity and empathy. Mothers exhibited sensitivity by reflecting positivity and warmth toward children, meeting developmental level of the children, responding rapidly and accurately to changing marks and successfully negotiating conflictual instants. Children began to internalize and incorporate the parental messages into their own behavior toward their parents and others within socialization process. They could behave in empathic and prosocial ways toward others. Children showed stronger and more affective and prosocial behaviors for distress of their mothers than the distress of strangers [102]. In their studies, Zahn-Waxler and Radke-Yarrow [103] indicated that children exhibited prosocial behaviors such as attending, providing comfort, sharing and helping to other persons in distress by empathizing with them when their mother, father or caregiver behaved sadly or stress out. Young children tried to help them in some way when parents looked upset by embracing or caressing their backs. Children tended to empathize with their parents or caregivers through they tried to understand the attitudes and facial expressions shown by their parents or caregivers. Parents helped to socialize preschoolers in order to teach behaviors affecting other persons. They aimed to develop a concern for other persons in their children via inductions that explained the consequences of their behaviors to interpersonal dilemmas. Preschoolers could demonstrate prosocial behaviors in order to respond to other persons in distress when they are informed about the expected and appropriate behaviors or unexpected and inappropriate behaviors that adversely affected others. Children could respond empathetically to the pain of another more when mothers conveyed socialization messages with strong emotional overtones such as when you bite me, it hurts and I don’t want to be near you. I am going away from you until you stop biting me [104]. Kochanska and his colleagues [105] looked at the relationship between rule-compatible behavior and moral emotions such as empathic distress and guilt in young children at 33 and 45 months. Mutually responsive orientation directly affected their moral emotions through mothers behaved sensitively toward infants and predicted higher empathic distress in toddlers at 22 months and later guilt reactions in children at 45 months. Parental responsiveness and shared positive emotions between parent and children were associated with conscience and empathy development in children. Young children could respond more empathically to a person experiencing negative emotions in distress when they had more responsive parents. The ability to empathize with distress of others was viewed as an important factor to develop prosocial behaviors in children. Children positively internalized values and developed early conscience when parents behaved warmly and responsively in mutual relationships and interactions with children [105]. Moral emotions and rule-adjusted behavior were associated with the development of the conscience. Children who felt more guilt when doing wrong and who exhibited empathic distress for the distress experienced by another could more follow given rules such as cleaning up toys without supervision [106]. Children who continued their early developments and who were brought up within warm and responsive relationships and interactions embraced more eagerly values of their parents and could develop a stronger conscience through shared cooperative relationships. Mutually responsive orientation could develop conscience in children by fostering enjoyment that they received from interactions with their parents, by promoting committed compliance and internalization and through parent reduced to use power assertion [105, 107]. Waters and his colleagues [49] also indicated that children who enjoyed their interactions with their parents developed stronger conscience and behaved by complying with rules and prosocial values rather than focusing on selfish concern in their moral judgments. They could behave to continue good feelings by engaging in pretty behaviors. They could act to maintain good feelings by engaging in good behaviors that stemmed from their own positive emotions. In their studies, Laible and Thompson [108] found that emotion-laden discourses that children shared with their caregivers contributed to emotion understanding and fostered early advances in conscience. Children increased their willingness for accepting parental messages and values when mother behaved mutually, harmoniously and shared positive affects in relationships and interactions with children. Mother contributed to his/her early conscience development that involved acquiring the multiple components such as committed compliance, behavioral internalization and guilt through mother shared positive affect with the child. Children could experience guilt, remorse and related reactions to deviating behaviors or mishap, with committed adaption when mothers referred to needs, feelings or purposes and social, moral rules and moral assessing statements such as “do not harm others,” “say thank you,” “good bye” and “this is a nice thing to do” through mother conversed with their 4-year-old children ([108], p. 1428). Emotion-laden discourses by the mother contributed to early conscience development in children because it fostered emotional understanding that was prerequisite for empathy and prosocial behaviors. Children internalized moral values and standards of their parents when they engaged in conversations about moral issues with their children [109]. In his study, Feldman [110] revealed that mother-infant synchrony measured at 3 and 9 months in the first year of life was directly correlated with empathy level at 6 years in childhood and at 13 years in adolescence. He measured time and activities shared by mothers with their children. Children and adolescents experienced more empathy during their middle childhood and adolescence when mothers more matched and influenced each other in relationships and interactions with infants through face-to-face play in their infancy. Parents matched effects of their infants during interaction and children provided important experiences in these processes. Children could internalize feelings and experiences of the other persons by imitating emotion-laden expressions and behaviors of the other persons. Children could feel that another or the parent felt what they felt during interaction on the one hand, they attained an understanding that affectively motivated behaviors that influenced another person and promoted the necessary feelings for activating a desire to aid other individuals on the other hand [111]. In their studies, Hastings and his colleagues [8] pointed out that children displayed prosocial behaviors more observed, reported by mothers and teachers 2 years later when mothers behaved in more authoritative ways and were less authoritarian with preschoolers. Mothers brought up children who displayed less empathy and prosocial behavior 2 years later by reflecting disappointment, anger and criticism to preschoolers. Mothers who experienced or expressed negative affect, anger, disappointment and conflict with their children and who displayed authoritarian approaches that practiced strict control, discouraged the emotion-laden expressions, exercised physical punishment or set prohibitions and reprimand had children who won lower score related to guilt such as reparation, apology, confession, concern about deviating behaviors of other persons and internalized behavior when their children came from age 5 to age 7 when compared to democratic approaches that used inductive reasoning and guiding, encouraged independence and supported the open expressing feelings in socialization processes [8]. Eisenberg and her colleagues examined the prosocial moral reasoning in elementary school children and adolescents in longitudinal and cross-sectional studies [32, 34, 62]. In a research, they conducted on Euro-American children (4- and 5-year-old 40 girls and 34 boys), Eisenberg and her colleagues [112] addressed relationship between moral reasoning, vicarious emotional responding and prosocial behavior. Children’s facial reactions for watching the films were videotaped while children watched both a boy and a girl who leaped from a large tire and who injured themselves and cried in one film and a different girl and boy who felled from a playground in the another film. Researchers found that children exhibited prosocial behavior for both peers and adults by responding vicariously and emotionally. Children reported their own sad emotions and helped peers in distress. It has been revealed that preschool children use highly moral reasoning by talking about self-reported and by demonstrating facial expressions related the vicarious responsiveness towards peers and adults. Prosocial behavior toward others of children depends on their moral reasoning and vicarious emotional reactions. Eisenberg-Berg [113] designed four prosocial moral dilemmas in order to assess level of prosocial moral reasoning. She observed and interviewed 125 second, fourth, sixth, ninth, eleventh and twelfth graders and described their reasoning as hedonistic reasoning, needs-oriented reasoning, approval/stereotyped reasoning and self-reflective empathic responding and role-taking. These moral judgment categories reflected the development of prosocial moral judgment. Preschool and elementary aged school children reasoned in a hedonistic and self-oriented manner and used prosocial moral reasoning fewest. Hedonistic reasoning promoted own needs or desires of one. Individual in needs-oriented reasoning focused primarily on the physical and psychological needs of other persons. Reasoning in this phase reflected a more developmentally mature type of moral consideration. It increased while hedonistic reasoning decreased with age. Young children tended to use hedonistic and needs-oriented prosocial reasoning. Their reasoning started to reflect concern for approval of others and they reasoned in stereotypic ways such as good, bad and mean when children reached elementary school age. Approval/stereotyped reasoning in ways to please others was identified as the next of prosocial moral reasoning. Approval/stereotyped reasoning was based on images of good and bad persons and maintained the approval of others. The next stage of prosocial moral reasoning was characterized by self-reflective empathic responding and role-taking. Youths with advanced cognitive abilities in adolescence behaved in accord with more self-reflective, empathic and internalized values, norms and principles in judgments. Prosocial moral reasoning developed with age and transformed from hedonistic, approval-oriented and needs-oriented forms in early childhood to relatively more sophisticated stereotyped, empathic and internalized forms in middle childhood and adolescence. Elementary school children reasoned at lower levels of prosocial moral reasoning that was identified more hedonistically, stereotypically or approval-oriented, while high school students’ reasoning reflected more abstract and empathic moral concerns [62]. Higher level other-oriented and not hedonistic prosocial moral reasoning in preschool, elementary or high school students was correlated more positively, frequently with costly prosocial behaviors such as donating or volunteering time after school than with behaviors low in cost such as helping pick up dropped paper clips [32].


5. Conclusion

Socialization practices such as parental support, warmth and sensitivity combine with parental inductions and reasoning, demandings and control and contribute to prosocial development in children and adolescents. Parental support, warmth and sensitivity provide an appropriate environment for socialization that encourages empathy, sympathy and prosocial behaviors. Warm and sensitive parents exhibit more active concern, involvement and affection toward their children. They nurture, support, love, approve and praise their children. They spend more time and enjoy shared activities with their children. Parents foster secure attachment relationships by satisfying own physical and emotional needs and desires of the children. Children with secure attachments can be more receptive to efforts to socialize them and they tend to attend parental messages and accord with values and expectations of their parents. Induction is viewed as another socialization practice uses for socializing children to behave in prosocial ways. Parents can foster empathy, sympathy and prosocial behaviors in children by giving prosocial messages through practices such as transmitting notions regarding moral issues, focusing children’s attention on positive or negative consequences of their behavior for others and highlighting the needs or well-being of others. Parents try to socialize their children in order to attain ability to empathize with the victim or identify distress of others by focusing children’s attention on consequences of their behavior for others and by specifically highlighting consequences of the transgressing behaviors through inductions. Children can experience empathy-based guilt when they empathize with the victim. This empathy-based guilt also plays an important role in internalizing the values and developing prosocial motives and behaviors such as reparative actions. Parents model their children to exhibit empathy, sympathy and prosocial behavior through parents, take their perspective and sympathize with their experiences and feelings toward their children. Parent modeling of prosocial behavior contributes prosocial development in children.


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Written By

Turhan Şengönül

Submitted: June 10th, 2017 Reviewed: January 17th, 2018 Published: June 20th, 2018