Fluctuations and individual differences in empathy interact with stress to predict mental health, parenting, and relationship outcomes

Ido Shalev, Alal Eran, Florina Uzefovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Empathy is a complex, multifaceted ability allowing for the most basic forms of social communication and plays a prominent role in multiple aspects of everyday lives. In this intensive longitudinal study, we assessed how empathy interacts with stress to predict central domains of psychosocial functioning: mental health, romantic relationships, and parenting. Methods: Fluctuations and individual differences in empathy were assessed across eight time points, where participants from the general population (N = 566) self-reported their empathy, stress, depressive symptoms, romantic satisfaction, and parental functioning. Results: Both trait and state aspects of empathy were associated with all psychosocial outcomes, with state empathy showing a stronger effect. Additionally, empathy components interacted with stress—emotional empathy better-predicted outcomes under high stress, while cognitive empathy under low stress. Discussion: Our findings advance the theoretical understanding of empathy, emphasizing the effects of state-dependent empathy fluctuations on our everyday mental and social lives.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1237278
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume14
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Keywords

  • depressive symptoms
  • empathy
  • parenting
  • romantic satisfaction
  • stress

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology

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