Journal article

Adolescents' responses to the distress of others: The influence of multiple attachment figures via empathic concern

Research Areas

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Publication Details

Author list: Profe WB; Wild LG; Tredoux C

Publisher: SAGE Publications (UK and US)

Publication year: 2021

Journal: Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

Volume number: 38

Issue number: 5

Start page: 1671

End page: 1691

Total number of pages: 21

ISSN: 0265-4075

eISSN: 1460-3608


Attachment theory provides an informative theoretical description of how prosocial
behaviors in response to the distress of others may be socialized. This study aimed to
investigate associations between attachment security to mothers, fathers, closest
grandparents and peers, and young adolescents’ (a) prosocial responses to others’ distress
and (b) global prosocial behaviors, via the mediation of empathic concern. Crosssectional
survey data were obtained from 520 adolescents (aged 11–14) from nine
schools in Cape Town, South Africa. Structural equation modeling revealed that a model
in which all paths from the attachment variables were routed through empathic concern
was superior to a model which proposed only direct effects of attachment on prosocial
behavior. Peer and grandparent attachment were significantly associated, through
empathic concern, with self-reported helping in response to others’ distress. For
teacher-reported global prosocial behavior, the indirect effects of peer and grandparent
attachment failed to reach significance. The results provide theoretical insight into the
association between secure attachments and prosocial behavior, and highlight the
importance of relationships with friends and grandparents in early adolescence.


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Last updated on 2021-08-06 at 12:04