The early development of empathy

Self-regulation and individual differences in the first year

Judy A. Ungerer*, Robyn Dolby, Brent Waters, Bryanne Barnett, Norm Kelk, Vivian Lewin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

57 Citations (Scopus)


A longitudinal study of 45 mothers and their first-born infants was conducted to identify developmentally meaningful, individual differences in children's primitive empathic responding at 12 months of age, and to determine whether differences in self-regulatory skills assessed at 4 months might underlie any differences in empathic responding observed. Personal distress responses analogous to those observed in older children and adults were identified in one-third of the sample at 12 months of age. These distress responses were associated with indices of poorer self-regulatory skills in social contexts at 4 months of age. The results are interpreted within the broader framework of the development of self-regulatory strategies in the early childhood years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-106
Number of pages14
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1990


Cite this

Ungerer, J. A., Dolby, R., Waters, B., Barnett, B., Kelk, N., & Lewin, V. (1990). The early development of empathy: Self-regulation and individual differences in the first year. Motivation and Emotion, 14(2), 93-106.