University of Oulu

Hintsanen, M., Gluschkoff, K., Dobewall, H., Cloninger, C. R., Keltner, D., Saarinen, A., … Pulkki-Råback, L. (2019). Parent–child-relationship quality predicts offspring dispositional compassion in adulthood: A prospective follow-up study over three decades. Developmental Psychology, 55(1), 216–225.

Parent–child-relationship quality predicts offspring dispositional compassion in adulthood : a prospective follow-up study over three decades

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Author: Hintsanen, Mirka1; Gluschkoff, Kia2,1; Dobewall, Henrik2;
Organizations: 1Unit of Psychology, University of Oulu
2Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki
3School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis
4Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
5Folkhälsan Research Center
6Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki
7Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku
8Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Turku University Hospital
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: American Psychological Association, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-09-19


Compassion is known to predict prosocial behavior and moral judgments related to harm. Despite the centrality of compassion to social life, factors predicting adulthood compassion are largely unknown. We examined whether qualities of parent–child-relationship, namely, emotional warmth and acceptance, predict offspring compassion decades later in adulthood. We used data from the prospective population-based Young Finns Study. Our sample included 2,761 participants (55.5% women). Parent–child-relationship qualities were reported by each participant’s parents at baseline in 1980 (T0) when participants were between 3 and 18 years old. Compassion was self-reported 3 times: in 1997 (T1), 2001 (T2), and 2012 (T3) with the Temperament and Character Inventory (Cloninger, Przybeck, Svrakic, & Wetzel, 1994). By using age at the assessment as a time-variant variable, we applied multilevel modeling for repeated measurements to examine developmental trajectories of compassion from the ages of 20 (the age of the youngest cohort at T1) to 50 (the age of the oldest cohort at T3). On average, compassion increased in a curvilinear pattern with age. Higher acceptance (p = .013) and higher emotional warmth (p < .001) were related to higher compassion in adulthood. After adjusting for childhood confounds (i.e., participant gender, birth cohort, externalizing behavior, parental socioeconomic status, and parental mental health problems), only emotional warmth (p < .001) remained a significant predictor of compassion. Quality of the parent–child-relationship has long-term effects on offspring compassion. An emotionally warm and close relationship, in particular, may contribute to higher offspring compassion in adulthood.

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Series: Developmental psychology
ISSN: 0012-1649
ISSN-E: 1939-0599
ISSN-L: 0012-1649
Volume: 55
Issue: 1
Pages: 216 - 225
DOI: 10.1037/dev0000633
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
515 Psychology
Funding: This study was supported by Academy of Finland grants 258578 and 308676 (MH), Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation (MH, LPR).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 258578
Detailed Information: 258578 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
308676 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © American Psychological Association, 2019. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at: