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Are Women More Empathetic than Men? A Longitudinal Study in Adolescence

  • María Vicenta Mestre (a1), Paula Samper (a1), María Dolores Frías (a1) and Ana María Tur (a1)

Since the 1970s there has been a growing interest in analysing sex differences in psychological variables. Empirical studies and meta-analyses have contributed evidence on the differences between male and female individuals. More recently, the gender similarities hypothesis has supported the similarity of men and women in most psychological variables. This study contributes information on women's greater empathic disposition in comparison with men by means of a longitudinal design in an adolescent population. 505 male and female adolescents aged between 13 and 16 years were evaluated at two different moments (grade 2 and grade 3, lower secondary education). They completed the Index of Empathy for Children and Adolescents by Bryant and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index by Davis. The results confirm a greater empathic response in females than in males of the same age, differences growing with age. The sizes of the effect estimated in the second evaluation (average age 14 years) are large for emotional empathy and medium for cognitive empathy.

Desde la década de los 70 se incrementa el interés por analizar las diferencias de género en las variables psicológicas y se publican estudios empíricos y trabajos de meta-análisis que aportan evidencia de las diferencias entre varones y mujeres. Más recientemente se ha planteado la hipótesis de la similitud de género que defiende la semejanza entre varones y mujeres en la mayoría de los constructos psicológicos. Este estudio aporta datos sobre la mayor disposición empática en la mujer respecto al varón a través de un diseño longitudinal en población adolescente. 505 adolescentes varones y mujeres, con un rango de edad entre 13 y 16 años fueron evaluados en dos momentos temporales (2 y 3 curso de ESO). Cumplimentaron el Índice de Empatía de Bryant y el Índice de Reactividad Interpersonal de Davis. Los resultados confirman mayor respuesta empática en las adolescentes respecto a los varones de su misma edad y constatan que dichas diferencias aumentan con la edad. Los tamaños del efecto estimados en el segundo momento (edad media 14 años) son grandes en la empatía emocional y medios en la cognitiva.

Corresponding author
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to María Vicenta Mestre Escrivá, Departamento de Psicología Básica. Facultad de Psícología, Universidad de Valencia, Avda. Blasco Ibáñez, 21, 46010 Valencia, Spain. Phone: +34 963 86 48 22. E-mail:
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The Spanish Journal of Psychology
  • ISSN: 1138-7416
  • EISSN: 1988-2904
  • URL: /core/journals/spanish-journal-of-psychology
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