Children aged 11-17, in their relationships with their parents, are capable of experiencing a negative mood if their parent is in pain. According to the empathy-altruism hypothesis, people that are high on empathy will want to help someone in distress with the ultimate goal of benefitting the other person. Because of this, the empathy-altruism hypothesis proposes that if an attempt to help is not resolved, the person will report more negative mood. Because children are capable of experiencing empathy for their parents in distress and feel a negative mood as a result, it was hypothesized that an interaction between empathy and parental level of pain will be positively correlated with depressive symptoms in the child. A hierarchical linear regression was done to test this hypothesis. Parent-child dyads were recruited primarily from the internet for this cross-sectional study to complete an internet-based questionnaire. Twenty-seven dyads completed this questionnaire, but analyses proceeded with 25 and 19 dyads following screening. Our hypotheses were not supported in either sample size. Further analyses were tested our hypothesis using overall psychological distress rather than depression alone. Our hypotheses were not supported in the 25 dyad analyses, but they were supported in the 19 dyad sample. This indicated that the interaction was predictive of child psychological distress, that as parent pain and child empathy increase, so does overall child psychological distress. Limitations are reviewed along with a summary of the importance of further study into the role of empathy in the adjustment of children whose parents have chronic pain.

LLU Discipline

Clinical Psychology




School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Boyd, Kendal C.

Second Advisor

Freeman, Kimberly

Third Advisor

Owen, Jason E.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Pain; Depression; Child; Empathy; Parent and Child; Family Therapy

Subject - Local

Parent pain; Child empathy; Childhood depression



Page Count

86 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives