The relationship of socioeconomic status in childhood and adulthood with compassion: A study with a prospective 32-year follow-up

Aino I. Saarinen, Dacher Keltner, Henrik Dobewall, Terho Lehtimäki, Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen, Mirka Hintsanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

The objective of this study was to investigate (i) whether childhood family SES predicts offspring's compassion between ages 20-50 years and (ii) whether adulthood SES predicts compassion or vice versa. We used the prospective population-based Young Finns data (N = 637-2300). Childhood family SES was evaluated in 1980; participants' adulthood SES in 2001 and 2011; and compassion for others in 1997, 2001, and 2012. Compassion for others was evaluated with the Compassion scale of the Temperament and Character Inventory. The results showed that high childhood family SES (a composite score of educational level, occupational status, unemployment status, and level of income) predicted offspring's higher compassion between ages 30-40 years but not in early adulthood or middle age. These results were obtained independently of a variety of potential confounders (disruptive behavior in childhood; parental mental disorder; frequency of parental alcohol use and alcohol intoxication). Moreover, high compassion for others in adulthood (a composite score of educational level, occupational status, and unemployment status) predicted higher adulthood SES later in their life (after a 10-year follow-up), but not vice versa. In conclusion, favorable socioeconomic environment in childhood appears to have a positive effect on offspring's compassion in their middle adulthood. This effect may attenuate by middle age. High compassion for others seems to promote the achievement of higher SES in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0248226
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume16
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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