Empathy and Self-Regulation as Mediators Between Parenting and Adolescents’ Prosocial Behavior Toward Strangers, Friends, and Family


The current study examined the role of empathy and self-regulation as mediators between positive parenting (mothering and fathering) and early adolescents’ prosocial behavior toward 3 targets (strangers, friends, and family). Data were taken from Time 1 and Time 2 of the Flourishing Families Project, and included reports from 500 families with an early adolescent child (mean age of child at Time 1 5 11.29). Analyses suggested that predictors of prosocial behavior toward the 3 targets differed, with empathy (as reported by mothers only) and self-regulation mediating the relation between positive parenting and prosocial behavior toward strangers and friends, but not toward family. Positive mothering was the only variable that was significantly related to prosocial behavior toward family. The discussion focuses on the need for continued research examining a relational approach to prosocial development.

Original Publication Citation

Padilla-Walker, L. M., & *Christensen, K. J. (2011). Empathy and self-regulation as mediators between parenting and adolescents’ prosocial behaviors toward strangers, friends, and family. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 545-551.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Research on Adolescence




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor