Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 41 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Elana B Gordis

Committee Members

Betty Lin


Abuse, Adolescence, Childhood maltreatment, Empathy, Neglect, Social engagement, College students, Child abuse

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Psychology


The capacity for empathy may be shaped by interpersonal interactions throughout development. Research shows that detrimental interactions, such as maltreatment, lead to aberrant levels of empathy. However, different subtypes of abuse and neglect as well as age of exposure complicate the relationship between maltreatment and empathy. The current study aims to elucidate the contributions of maltreatment subtypes and age of exposure in predicting state and trait empathy. Participants (N=94, M age=19.12 years, 45.7% male) self-reported their age of exposure to eight subscales of maltreatment from caregivers. Next, participants self-reported their trait empathy and completed a vignette measure aimed to assess state empathy. State and trait empathy were regressed onto each subscale of maltreatment. Results revealed physical neglect negatively predicted state empathy. Emotional neglect and physical neglect both negatively predicted trait empathy, and parental physical maltreatment positively predicted trait empathy. Relative weights analysis revealed that adolescent versus childhood exposure to emotional neglect was significantly more impactful in predicting state empathy. These results illuminate the nuanced associations between timing of maltreatment subtypes and how they differentially impact state versus trait empathy.