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Empathy in relationships: costs of caring

December 30, 2012

I thought this an interesting discussion…

Rhiannon L. Smith and Amanda J. Rose explain: “Empathic concern for others generally is considered an adaptive socioemotional competency (Zahn-Waxler & Radke-Yarrow, 1990) and an important feature of close relationships such as friendships (Bukowski, Newcomb, & Hartup, 1996). However, researchers also have cautioned that there may be emotional “costs of caring,” especially for females (Kessler & McLeod, 1984, p. 620). Although this idea has intuitive appeal, supporting research is surprisingly scarce (Rudolph, 2002). The current research focuses on a new, potentially “costly” interpersonal construct, empathetic distress, and examines the processes that may put girls at risk for the emotional costs of caring in their friendships. Empathetic distress is a new construct that refers to emotional involvement in the problems and distressed feelings of a relationship partner, to the point of taking on the partner’s emotional distress and experiencing it as one’s own.” (p.1792)

Is it relevant to YA lit, I wonder? or to literature about older people? Is it a feature of the support structures around them? or of the relationships they are in more generally?

Ref: Rhiannon L. Smith and Amanda J. Rose ‘The “Cost of Caring” in Youths’ Friendships: Considering Associations Among Social Perspective Taking, Co-Rumination, and Empathetic Distress’ Developmental Psychology 2011, Vol. 47, No. 6, 1792–1803

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