Although shy children have been described as less empathetic than their more sociable peers, this may be due to a performance rather than a competence deficit. The aim of this study was to explore the moderating role of shyness in the association between empathic feelings and empathic-related reactions. Participants were 212 preschoolers (Mage = 58.32 months, SD = 10.72). Children provided self-reports of empathetic feelings, parents rated child shyness and empathic behaviours (e.g., reparative behaviours), and teachers assessed indices of socio-emotional functioning (e.g., prosocial behaviours). Results revealed interaction effects between empathic feelings and shyness in the prediction of outcome variables. Among children with lower levels of shyness, empathy rated by children was positively related to empathetic and reparative behaviours (rated by parents) and prosocial behaviours (rated by teachers). At higher levels of shyness, these relations were attenuated. These results can be interpreted to suggest that although shy children may not differ from their more sociable counterparts in experiencing empathy, they seem to be less likely to act empathically.

empathy, shyness, socio-emotional functioning, young children
British Journal of Developmental Psychology
Department of Psychology

Zava, F. (Federica), Sette, S. (Stefania), Baumgartner, E. (Emma), & Coplan, R. (2020). Shyness and empathy in early childhood: Examining links between feelings of empathy and empathetic behaviours. British Journal of Developmental Psychology. doi:10.1111/bjdp.12347