Stability and Change in Adolescent Self-Consciousness and Empathy

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Journal of Research in Personality

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The present investigation was carried out to examine the evidence for stability and change during adolescence in two sets of theoretically important traits: self-consciousness and empathy. While the sets are clearly distinct from one another, they fall into the same general domain—that of constructs concerned with one's tendency to attend to psychological states, motives, and behavioral tendencies of the self and others. Two hundred and five high school students (103 males and 102 females) were surveyed at 1-year intervals for 3 successive years, completing the Self-Consciousness Scale and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (a measure of empathy) at each time point. Results indicated a considerable degree of year-to-year stability in scores on all three self-consciousness scales and all four empathy scales; in addition, for two of the self-consciousness scales (private and public) the degree of year-to-year stability increased with age. Mean scores on the three self-consciousness scales exhibited no significant change from year to year; for empathy, however, predicted year-to-year increases were found for perspective taking and empathic concern, and a predicted decrease over time was found for personal distress. These results are consistent with previous research and theorizing, and are discussed in terms of Hoffman's views on the development of empathic capacities in children.


Journal of Research in Personality, Vol. 25, No. 1 (March 1991): 70-87. DOI.