Juujärvi, S., Myyry, L. & Pesso, K. (2012). Empathy and values as predictors of care development. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 53, 413–420.
This study investigates values and affective empathy as predictors for care-based moral development. Fifty-three students from a university of applied sciences were interviewed with Skoe’s Ethic of Care Interview at the beginning of their studies and two years later. Value priorities were measured by Schwartz et al.’s Portrait Value Questionnaire, empathy variables by Davis’ Interpersonal Reactivity Index, and feelings of sympathy were rated using a real-life moral conflict. The results showed that students in care-oriented fields progressed in care reasoning. Real-life sympathy and the value of self-direction positively predicted development in care reasoning, whereas personal distress was a negative predictor. The results indicate that care-based moral development is more closely connected with affective empathy than personal values. Individuals who feel empathy for others, and who prefer independent thinking and action, achieve the greatest gains in care development. In conclusion, educators should encourage students’ empathy and moral reasoning in authentic moral conflicts.