Empathie en prosociaal gedrag bij 6 en 7 jarige kinderen
Hekke, M.A.M. voor 't
Klaarbergen, A. van
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Background: Children with clinical diagnoses of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Disruptive Behaviour Disorders (DBD) have shown lower levels of empathy and less prosocial behavior when compared to normal developing peers. Also, a positive relation between empathy and prosocial behavior and a negative relation between empathy and antisocial behavior has been demonstrated. The present study examined these differences between 6-7 year old children who were diagnosed with DBD and/or ADHD and their normal developing peers. Method: Data was gathered from 29 children diagnosed with ADHD, 61 diagnosed with DBD with or without co-morbid ADHD and 44 normal developing peers. The ‘Griffith Empathy Measure’ (GEM) was used to measure empathy. The GEM is a parent and teacher report rating cognitive, affective and total empathy. The ‘Interpersonal Repsonse Task’ (IRT), a ball-throwing computer game against two computer controlled players in a neutral and emotional condition, was used to assess prosocial behavior. The aim was to examine the child’s prosocial behavior in terms of their sensitivity and reactivity to the distress of the ‘sad’ player, in the presence of a rewarding stimuli from the other player. Results: In line with prediction, according to their parents and teachers, children with DBD and/or ADHD were less empathic when compared to normal developing peers. Furthermore, according to their parents, children diagnosed with DBD with or without ADHD showed lower rates in cognitive empathy when compared to children diagnosed with ADHD. In line with prediction, children with DBD and/or ADHD showed less prosocial behavior compared to normal developing children. Compared to the latter, children with DBD with or without ADHD were less sensitive to the distress of the player in an emotional condition. Contrary to expectations, no relations were found between empathy and prosocial behavior. Discussion: The present study confirmed group differences in empathy and prosocial behavior between age matched normal developing peers and children who were diagnosed with DBD and/or ADHD. Contrarily, no relations were found between empathy and prosocial behavior.