Parenting and Conduct Problems: Moderation by Child Empathy

  • Natalie V. Miller
  • Charlotte J. Johnston
  • Dave S. Pasalich


Child empathy was examined as a moderator of the relations between positive and negative parenting behavior and child conduct problems. Participants were 56 mother-child dyads (child age M = 10.8 years; 64 % male) and children were recruited with a range of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Parenting was assessed by direct observations of mothers’ praise and criticism during parent–child interactions and child empathy was measured with mother report. Child conduct problems were assessed via observation and mother-report measures, and a composite variable was created. In regression analyses, child ADHD symptoms were uniquely related to child conduct problems. Second, as hypothesized, child empathy moderated the relations between parenting and conduct problems. Mother praise was negatively related to child conduct problems at lower levels of child empathy, but this relation was not significant at higher levels of child empathy. On the contrary, mother criticism was positively related to child conduct problems at high levels of child empathy, but this relation was not significant at low levels of empathy. The results suggest that different types of parenting behavior may be differentially beneficial to children, depending on their level of empathy.


Empathy Positive parenting Negative parenting ADHD 



Funding for this study was provided to Dr. Johnston by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The first author also was supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and a Killam Doctoral Scholarship. We thank the research assistants of the Parenting Lab for their help with data collection. In particular, we thank Grace Truong, Julie Tyas, Ari Shortt, and Sisi Zhou for their assistance with coding. We are also extremely appreciative of the participating families.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Natalie V. Miller
    • 1
  • Charlotte J. Johnston
    • 1
  • Dave S. Pasalich
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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