ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (9): 976-991.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2021.00976

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The relationship between positive parenting and adolescent prosocial behavior: The mediating role of empathy and the moderating role of the oxytocin receptor gene

ZHANG Wenxin, LI Xi, CHEN Guanghui, CAO Yanmiao()   

  1. School of Psychology, Research Institute of Child and Adolescent Development, Shandong Normal University, Jinan 250014, China
  • Received:2020-10-28 Published:2021-09-25 Online:2021-07-22
  • Contact: CAO Yanmiao
  • Supported by:
    This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(32071073);This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(31900776);This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(31671156);Major Projects of Philosophy and Social Sciences Research, Ministry of Education(17JZD058)


Plenty of studies have shown that maternal positive parenting promotes adolescents’ prosocial behavior, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. The participants were 1082 mother-offspring dyads (adolescents’ mean age: 12.32 ± 0.48 years, 50.3% females) recruited from the community which was followed for two years. Under the framework of “gene-environment-endophenotype- behavior”, this study investigated the mediating role of empathy in the relationship between maternal positive parenting and adolescents’ prosocial behavior, and the moderating role of OXTR gene rs53576 polymorphism. The results showed that cognitive empathy, but not emotional empathy, mediated the association between positive parenting and prosocial behavior. Specifically, positive parenting was positively associated with cognitive empathy, which in turn was positively associated with adolescents’ prosocial behavior. Further, this mediation was moderated by the OXTR gene rs53576 polymorphism. For adolescents with AA and GG genotypes, positive parenting was related to higher levels of cognitive empathy, which increased prosocial behavior. However, this mediation effect was not observed among adolescents with AG genotype. In addition, the results revealed evidence for an overdominance model for OXTR rs53576 polymorphism. Moreover, the G×E interaction predicted cognitive empathy but not prosocial behavior. These findings add to our understanding of how empathy and genetic factors contribute to adolescents’ prosocial behavior within the family context.

Key words: prosocial behavior, maternal positive parenting, OXTR gene, cognitive empathy, emotional empathy