University of Oulu

Saarinen AI, Keltner D, Dobewall H, Lehtimäki T, Keltikangas-Järvinen L, Hintsanen M (2021) The relationship of socioeconomic status in childhood and adulthood with compassion: A study with a prospective 32-year follow-up. PLoS ONE 16(3): e0248226.

The relationship of socioeconomic status in childhood and adulthood with compassion : a study with a prospective 32-year follow-up

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Author: Saarinen, Aino I.1,2; Keltner, Dacher3; Dobewall, Henrik1;
Organizations: 1Research Unit of Psychology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
3Department of Psychology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, United States of America
4Department of Clinical Chemistry, Fimlab Laboratories and Finnish Cardiovascular Research Center-Tampere, Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Public Library of Science, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-05-20


The objective of this study was to investigate (i) whether childhood family SES predicts offspring’s compassion between ages 20–50 years and (ii) whether adulthood SES predicts compassion or vice versa. We used the prospective population-based Young Finns data (N = 637–2300). Childhood family SES was evaluated in 1980; participants’ adulthood SES in 2001 and 2011; and compassion for others in 1997, 2001, and 2012. Compassion for others was evaluated with the Compassion scale of the Temperament and Character Inventory. The results showed that high childhood family SES (a composite score of educational level, occupational status, unemployment status, and level of income) predicted offspring’s higher compassion between ages 30–40 years but not in early adulthood or middle age. These results were obtained independently of a variety of potential confounders (disruptive behavior in childhood; parental mental disorder; frequency of parental alcohol use and alcohol intoxication). Moreover, high compassion for others in adulthood (a composite score of educational level, occupational status, and unemployment status) predicted higher adulthood SES later in their life (after a 10-year follow-up), but not vice versa. In conclusion, favorable socioeconomic environment in childhood appears to have a positive effect on offspring’s compassion in their middle adulthood. This effect may attenuate by middle age. High compassion for others seems to promote the achievement of higher SES in adulthood.

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Series: PLoS one
ISSN: 1932-6203
ISSN-E: 1932-6203
ISSN-L: 1932-6203
Volume: 16
Issue: 3
Article number: e0248226
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0248226
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
Funding: This study was supported financially by the Academy of Finland (M.H., grant number 308676); the Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation (T.L, M.H.). The Young Finns Study has been financially supported by the Academy of Finland: grants 322098, 286284, 134309 (Eye), 126925, 121584, 124282, 129378 (Salve), 117787 (Gendi), and 41071 (Skidi); the Social Insurance Institution of Finland; Competitive State Research Financing of the Expert Responsibility area of Kuopio, Tampere and Turku University Hospitals (grant X51001); Juho Vainio Foundation; Paavo Nurmi Foundation; Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research; Finnish Cultural Foundation; The Sigrid Juselius Foundation; Tampere Tuberculosis Foundation; Emil Aaltonen Foundation; Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation; Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation; Diabetes Research Foundation of Finnish Diabetes Association; EU Horizon 2020 (grant 755320 for TAXINOMISIS and grant 848146 for To Aition); European Research Council (grant 742927 for MULTIEPIGEN project); Tampere University Hospital Supporting Foundation and Finnish Society of Clinical Chemistry. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 308676
Detailed Information: 308676 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
322098 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2021 Saarinen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.