Empathy in context: Socioeconomic status as a moderator of the link between empathic accuracy and well-being in married couples

Emily F. Hittner, Claudia M. Haase*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The present laboratory-based study investigated socioeconomic status (SES) as a moderator of the association between empathic accuracy and well-being among married couples from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Empathic accuracy was measured using a performance-based measure of empathic accuracy for one’s spouse’s negative emotions during a marital conflict conversation. Aspects of well-being included well-being (i.e., positive affect, life satisfaction), ill-being (i.e., negative affect, anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms), and marital satisfaction. SES was measured using a composite score of income and education. Findings showed that SES moderated associations between empathic accuracy and well-being. Empathic accuracy was beneficial (for well-being and ill-being) or not harmful (for marital satisfaction) at low levels of SES. In contrast, empathic accuracy was not beneficial (for well-being and ill-being) or harmful (for marital satisfaction) at high levels of SES. Results were robust (controlled for age, gender, and race). Findings are discussed in light of interdependence vs. independence in low- vs. high-SES contexts and highlight the importance of socioeconomic context in determining whether empathic accuracy benefits well-being or not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1633-1654
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Volume38
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021

Keywords

  • Empathic accuracy
  • marriage
  • socioeconomic status
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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