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The Korean Journal of Woman Psychology

The relationship between mothers’ altruism in the reinforcement learning task and their children’s empathy


This study investigated how infants’ and preschoolers’ empathy is related to maternal morality. Mothers’ altruistic behaviors were measured by using the reinforcement learning task in which the mothers learned the association between an ambiguous figure and a reward for either self, other, or both. The mothers also completed self-report questionnaires on altruism, social value orientation, Machiavellism, and children's empathy. The results showed the positive correlation between mothers’ altruistic behaviors in the reinforcement learning task and their children’s empathy. Amoral characteristics of mothers in Machiavellism scale were negatively related to their children’s empathy. Mothers with high desire for status tended to have infants with the low level of empathy. Mothers who were willing to manipulate others for their benefit were more likely to have preschoolers who had the low level of empathy. The current research provides new perspectives on how to measure mothers' morality related to the development of children's morally relevant emotions.

도덕성, 이타성, 공감, 자녀 양육, 모델링, morality, altruism, empathy, parenting, modeling



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The Korean Journal of Woman Psychology