Teenagers who have close, secure relationships with their families are more likely to extend empathy to their peers, according to a new study.
At age 14, researchers interviewed the teens regarding their family relationships using a modified version of the Adult Attachment Interview, which is considered the “gold standard” of assessing one’s attachment state of mind, according to the study.
“So, can teens talk about their close relationships in a way that’s calm and clear? Can they take a situation that’s maybe difficult and make sense out of it?”
The researchers noted how the participants responded when their friend presented a problem and confided in them, assessing the participants’ extension of empathy.
Stern suggested that having strong friendships or a trusted teacher might make an impact on insecure teens’ empathy, but she said further research should be done to learn more.
She was not involved in the study.
Additional research must examine not only the quality of the attachment relationship between a parent and child, but also the potential impacts of socialization and other aspects of parenting, Buckingham added.
“Future research should examine what specific experiences, for what youth, in what broader contexts, at what points in the life span, may lead to attachment and empathy links.”
Led by Joseph Allen, professor of psychology and head of the Adolescent Research Group at the University of Virginia, the researchers are interested in seeing how the empathic abilities they examined in the teens now shape their romantic relationships and parenting behavior as adults.