Helping as prosocial practice: Longitudinal relations among children’s shyness, helping behavior, and empathic response
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Although shyness has been found to be a concurrent constraint on young children's empathy and instrumental helping, there is limited evidence to suggest that this temperamental profile has longitudinal effects on prosocial behaviors. Here, we examined the concurrent and longitudinal relations between children's shyness and prosocial behaviors, as well as the intervening impact of instrumental helping behavior on later empathic response in typically developing children (N = 86; 45 female). Shyness was coded from direct observations and reported by parents at Time 1 (Mage = 54.3 months, SD = 2.9), Time 2 (Mage = 66.5 months, SD = 2.8), and Time 3 (Mage = 77.9 months, SD = 2.8), helping behavior was assessed at Time 2, and data on cognitive and affective empathy were collected at Time 3. Increases in shyness resulted in longitudinal reductions of affective empathy but not cognitive empathy or instrumental helping. As well, Time 2 helping behavior mediated the relation between Time 1 shyness and Time 3 affective empathy and, to some extent, the relation between Time 2 shyness and Time 3 affective empathy. These findings suggest that shyness concurrently impedes early helping behaviors, and that this withdrawal may contribute to reductions in shy children's prosocial learning opportunities that inform later empathic responses.