Skip to main content

The Mediator Role of Empathy Ability in the Relationship Between Parenting Style and Sense of Security in 3–6-Year-Old Chinese Children

Abstract

While many factors can influence children’s sense of security, little research has examined the role of empathy ability in the association between parenting style and sense of security. The present study aims to examine whether empathy ability mediates the relationship between parenting style and sense of security among 3–6-year-old Chinese children. The participants in this study included 242 3–6-year-old Chinese children with their parents from three public kindergartens of China. The Parent Behavior Inventory (PBI), 3–6-year-old Children’s Psychological Security Scale and Empathy Questionnaire were used to collect the data. The results indicate that two different parenting styles have significant differences for children's empathy ability and sense of security. This, supportive/engaged, has positive impact on empathy ability and sense of security. In turn, hostile/coercive has a negative impact on empathy ability and sense of security. We further test the indirect effect of empathy ability using bias-corrected bootstrap confidence intervals of mediation analysis in the SEM framework. Our results showed that empathy ability as a mediator has significant effect between the supportive/engaged and sense of security, as well as hostile/coercive and sense of security. The current findings provide useful information for understanding the interactions of relationship between parenting style, empathy ability, and sense of security in children.

Résumé

Alors que de nombreux facteurs peuvent influencer le sentiment de sécurité des enfants, peu de recherches ont examiné le rôle de la capacité d'empathie dans l'association entre le style parental et le sentiment de sécurité. La présente étude vise à examiner si la capacité d'empathie médie la relation entre le style parental et le sentiment de sécurité chez les enfants chinois de 3 à 6 ans. Les participants à cette étude comprenaient 242 enfants chinois de 3 à 6 ans avec leurs parents de trois jardins d'enfants publics de Chine. Le Parent Behavior Inventory (PBI), l'échelle de sécurité psychologique des enfants de 3 à 6 ans et le questionnaire d'empathie ont été utilisés pour collecter les données. Les résultats indiquent que deux styles parentaux différents ont des différences significatives pour la capacité d'empathie et le sentiment de sécurité des enfants. Ceci, de soutien/engagement, a un impact positif sur la capacité d'empathie et le sentiment de sécurité. À son tour, hostile/coercitif a un impact négatif sur la capacité d'empathie et le sentiment de sécurité. Nous testons en outre l'effet indirect de la capacité d'empathie en utilisant des intervalles de confiance bootstrap corrigés des biais de l'analyse de médiation dans le cadre SEM. Nos résultats ont montré que la capacité d'empathie en tant que médiateur a un effet significatif entre le soutien/engagement et le sentiment de sécurité, ainsi qu'hostile/coercitif et le sentiment de sécurité. Les résultats actuels fournissent des informations utiles pour comprendre les interactions de la relation entre le style parental, la capacité d'empathie et le sentiment de sécurité chez les enfants.

Resumen

Si bien muchos factores pueden influir en la sensación de seguridad de los niños, pocas investigaciones han examinado el papel de la capacidad de empatía en la asociación entre el estilo de crianza y la sensación de seguridad. El presente estudio tiene como objetivo examinar si la capacidad de empatía media la relación entre el estilo de crianza y la sensación de seguridad entre los niños chinos de 3 a 6 años. Los participantes en este estudio incluyeron a 242 niños chinos de 3 a 6 años con sus padres de tres jardines de infancia públicos de China. Se utilizaron el Inventario de Comportamiento de los Padres (PBI), la Escala de Seguridad Psicológica Infantil de 3 a 6 años y el Cuestionario de Empatía para recopilar los datos. Los resultados indican que dos estilos de crianza diferentes tienen diferencias significativas en la capacidad de empatía y el sentido de seguridad de los niños. Esto, de apoyo / compromiso, tiene un impacto positivo en la capacidad de empatía y la sensación de seguridad. A su vez, hostil / coercitivo tiene un impacto negativo en la capacidad de empatía y la sensación de seguridad. Además, probamos el efecto indirecto de la capacidad de empatía utilizando intervalos de confianza de arranque corregidos por sesgo del análisis de mediación en el marco SEM. Nuestros resultados mostraron que la capacidad de empatía como mediador tiene un efecto significativo entre la sensación de apoyo / compromiso y la seguridad, así como la sensación hostil / coercitiva y de seguridad. Los hallazgos actuales brindan información útil para comprender las interacciones de la relación entre el estilo de crianza, la capacidad de empatía y el sentido de seguridad en los niños.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  • Antonopoulou, K., Alexopoulos, D. A., & Maridaki-Kassotaki, K. (2012). Perceptions of father parenting style, empathy, and self-esteem among Greek preadolescents. Marriage & Family Review, 48(3), 293–309. https://doi.org/10.1080/01494929.2012.665016

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review, 84(2), 191.

  • Begeer, S., Rieffe, C., Terwogt, M. M., & Stockmann, L. (2006). Attention to facial emotion expressions in children with autism. Autism, 10(1), 37–51. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0030372

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Benzies, K., Keown, L.-A., & Magill-Evans, J. (2009). Immediate and sustained effects of parenting on physical aggression in Canadian children aged 6 years and younger. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 54(1), 55–64. https://doi.org/10.1177/070674370905400109

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boele, S., Van der Graaff, J., De Wied, M., Van der Valk, I. E., Crocetti, E., & Branje, S. (2019). Linking parent–child and peer relationship quality to empathy in adolescence: A multilevel meta-analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 48(6), 1033–1055. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-00993-5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bornstein, M. H. (2013). Parenting and child mental health: A cross-cultural perspective. World Psychiatry, 12(3), 258–265. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20071

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base. Parent–child attachment and healthy human development. Basic Books. https://doi.org/10.5860/choice.26-4750

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (2005). Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development. Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cornell, A. H., & Frick, P. J. (2007). The moderating effects of parenting styles in the association between behavioral inhibition and parent-reported guilt and empathy in preschool children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 36(3), 305–318. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374410701444181

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1980). Influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective well-being: Happy and unhappy people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38(4), 668. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.38.4.668

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Denham, S. A. (2007). Dealing with feelings: How children negotiate the worlds of emotions and social relationships. Cognition, Brain, Behavior, 11(1), 1.

    Google Scholar 

  • Denham, S. A., Workman, E., Cole, P. M., Weissbrod, C., Kendziora, K. T., & Zahn-Waxler, C. (2000). Prediction of externalizing behavior problems from early to middle childhood: The role of parental socialization and emotion expression. Development and Psychopathology, 12(1), 23–45. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0954579400001024

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Díez, M., González, M., & Morgado, B. (2021). Single mothers by choice in Spain: Parenting and psychosocial adjustment in adopted and ART children. Journal of Family Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000680

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gallarin, M., Torres-Gomez, B., & Alonso-Arbiol, I. (2021). Aggressiveness in adopted and non-adopted teens: The role of parenting, attachment security, and gender. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(4), 2034. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18042034

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gelles, R. J. (1997). Intimate violence in families: Sage.

  • Gunarsa, S. D. (2008). Psikologi perkembangan anak dan remaja. BPK Gunung Mulia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hair, J., Jr., Anderson, R., Tatham, R., & Black, W. (1998). Multivariate data analysis (5th ed.). Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoffman, M. L. (1987). The contribution of empathy to justice and moral judgment. In N. Eisenberg & J. Strayer (Eds.), Empathy and its development (pp. 47–80).

    Google Scholar 

  • Hong, Y. (2009). Development of 3–6 years old children's psychological security scale (Master), Jianxi Normal University.

  • Jia, S., Wang, L., & Shi, Y. (2014). Relationship between parenting and proactive versus reactive aggression among Chinese preschool children. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 28(2), 152–157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apnu.2013.12.001 Epub 2013 Dec 19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jia, S., Wang, L., Tan, H., Wang, X., Shi, Y., & Li, P. (2013). The reliability and validity test of the Chinese version of Parental Behavior Inventory (PBI) in early childhood parents. Chinese Journal of Children’s Health, 15(09), 30–33. https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S218943

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kaufmann, D., Gesten, E., Santa Lucia, R. C., Salcedo, O., Rendina-Gobioff, G., & Gadd, R. (2000). The relationship between parenting style and children’s adjustment: The parents’ perspective. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 9(2), 231–245. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009475122883

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kelley, T. L. (1939). The selection of upper and lower groups for the validation of test items. Journal of educational psychology, 30(1), 17.

  • Kellett, J. B., Humphrey, R. H., & Sleeth, R. G. (2006). Empathy and the emergence of task and relations leaders. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(2), 146–162. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.12.003

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keluarga, L. S. P. (2012). Penanaman Nilai dan Penanganan Konflik dalam Keluarga. Jakarta: Kencana Prenada Media Group.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kline, R. B. (2015). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling. Guilford Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lovejoy, M. C., Weis, R., O’Hare, E., & Rubin, E. C. (1999). Development and initial validation of the Parent Behavior Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 11(4), 534. https://doi.org/10.1037/1040-3590.11.4.534

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ma, Y., Chen, X., Nunez, A., Yan, M., Zhang, B., & Zhao, F. (2020). Influences of parenting on adolescents’ empathy through the intervening effects of self-integrity and sense of coherence. Children and Youth Services Review, 116, 105246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105246

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maslow, A., Hirsh, E., Stein, M., & Honigmann, I. (1945). A clinically derived test for measuring psychological security-insecurity. The Journal of General Psychology, 33(1), 21–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221309.1945.10544493

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McDonald, N. M., & Messinger, D. S. (2011). The development of empathy: How, when, and why. Free Will, Emotions, and Moral Actions: Philosophy and Neuroscience in Dialogue, 23, 333–359.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meins, E. (2013). Security of attachment and the social development of cognition. Psychology Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Nimkannon, O., & Weinstein, B. (2014). Influence of emotion regulation and empathy on thai parenting behavior: A path analytic model. Scholar: Human Sciences, 6(2), 104–113.

  • O’Connor, T. G. (2002). Annotation: The effects’ of parenting reconsidered: Findings, challenges, and applications. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43(5), 555–572. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00046

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Panfile, T. M., & Laible, D. J. (2012). Attachment security and child’s empathy: The mediating role of emotion regulation. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly (1982-), 58, 1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rieffe, C., Ketelaar, L., & Wiefferink, C. H. (2010). Assessing empathy in young children: Construction and validation of an Empathy Questionnaire (EmQue). Personality and Individual Differences, 49(5), 362–367. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.03.046

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rueger, S. Y., Katz, R. L., Risser, H. J., & Lovejoy, M. C. (2011). Relations between parental affect and parenting behaviors: A meta-analytic review. Parenting: Science and Practice, 11(1), 1–33. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295192.2011.539503

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saltalı, N. D., & Arslan, E. (2012). Parent\'s attitudes as a predictor of preschoolers\'social competence and introverted behavior. Elementary Education Online, 11(3), 729–737

  • Schaffer, M., Clark, S., & Jeglic, E. L. (2009). The role of empathy and parenting style in the development of antisocial behaviors. Crime & Delinquency, 55(4), 586–599. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011128708321359

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Suat, K. (2018). The effects of the parenting styles on social skills of children aged 5–6. MOJES: Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Sciences, 4(2), 49–58.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tong, L., Shinohara, R., Sugisawa, Y., Tanaka, E., Yato, Y., Yamakawa, N., Anme, T., Japan Children’s Study Group. (2012). Early development of empathy in toddlers: Effects of daily parent–child interaction and home-rearing environment. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42(10), 2457–2478. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2012.00949.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wang, S., Hu, H., Wang, X., Dong, B., & Zhang, T. (2021). The hidden danger in family environment: The role of self-reported parenting style in cognitive and affective empathy among offenders. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 167. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.588993

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yan, Z., Liu, Y., Pei, M., & Su, Y. (2019). Revision of children’s empathy questionnaire and test of reliability and validity in Chinese. Psychological Techniques and Applications, 7(9), 514–522.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yorukoglu, A. (2011). Cocuk ruh sagligi/cocuk yetistirme sanati ve kisilik gelisimi.

Download references

Acknowledgements

This article was supported by the research project "A Study on the Promotion of the Balanced Development of Regional Quality Preschool Education by the Specialized Park of Normal School Group", which was found by Professor Deng Ming of Wuhu Normal School (Project Approval Number JK20140). We also would like to thank Bi Na, the principal of Kindergarten Affiliated Wuhu Normal School, for supporting my research. She introduced me to the children’s parents and teachers in the kindergarten, and data for the study were collected only with their permission and consent.

Funding

Open access funding provided by Wuhu Normal School including Kindergarten Affiliated Wuhu Normal School.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Fanfan Li.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors do not have any conflict of interest in relation to this work.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Li, F., Cao, E. & Ma, M. The Mediator Role of Empathy Ability in the Relationship Between Parenting Style and Sense of Security in 3–6-Year-Old Chinese Children. IJEC (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-021-00310-x

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-021-00310-x

Keywords

  • 3–6-Year-old children
  • Parenting style
  • Sense of security
  • Empathy ability