Empathy development from 8 to 16 months: Early signs of concern for others

Ronit Roth-Hanania, Maayan Davidov*, Carolyn Zahn-Waxler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

255 Scopus citations


The study examined the responses of typically developing infants to the distress of another, prior to and following the transition to the second year. Infants' responses to maternal simulations of distress and to a peer distress videotape were observed from 8 to 16 months, using an accelerated longitudinal design (overall n= 37). Modest levels of affective and cognitive empathy for another in distress were already evident before the second year, and increased gradually (and not always significantly) across the transition to the second year. Prosocial behavior was rare in the first year and increased substantially during the second year. Self-distress reactions were rare overall. Individual differences in cognitive and affective empathy assessed in the first year, particularly at 10-months, predicted the levels of prosocial behavior observed in the second year. No gender differences were found. Theoretical implications and future research directions are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)447-458
Number of pages12
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Concern for others
  • Empathic concern
  • Empathy
  • Empathy development
  • Prosocial behavior


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