Instrument Development

Empathy Questionnaire (EmQue)

Empathy refers to the ability to respond affectively to emotions in others, with the purpose of reacting adaptively to another's needs, e.g., to console or support the other person (Decety & Jackson, 2004; Hoffman, 1987; Rieffe, Ketelaar, & Wiefferink, 2010). Empathy is crucial for success in the everyday social world, and begins very early in life. Even the youngest children can already “feel what the other feels”, which is often referred to as “Emotion Contagion” or “Empathic Empathy”. Only with the development of the Theory of Mind, around the age for four, children also begin to understand the causes for others distress, the so-called “Cognitive Empathy”. We have developed two questionnaires, one for toddlers and one for older children and adolescents covering the aspects of empathy relevant for each age-group.


In typically developing children, empathic responses begin with unregulated arousal (what we call 'emotion contagion'), which can actually be harmful because witnessing distress in another baby very often also evokes crying in the observing baby. At about one year, babies learn to regulate their own level of arousal more effectively. They also develop the capacity to attend to others' emotion with less personal distress (we call this behaviour 'Attention to Others' Emotions'). Finally, around age 2, toddlers learn to regulate arousal enough to engage in prosocial behaviour, such as consoling or sharing, which will create strong and healthy social bonds.

The Empathy Questionnaire (EmQue) is a 20 item questionnaire filled out by parents, indicating the degree of empathy that their child (between 1 – 6 years old) showed over the last two months on a three-point-scale. To compute the total score, all 20 items can be included. The EmQue consists of three scales, which are i) Emotion contagion (6 items, item 19 is deleted from this scale due to a poor model fit, see publication); ii) Attention to others' emotions (7 items); and iii) Prosocial responses to others' emotions (6 items).

It is important to consider that healthy emotion regulation is a life-long process which becomes easier and more natural with age. For example, because a child starts to display behavior associated with prosocial responses, they will still experience emotion contagion, and at times only attend to another's emotions without trying to help them.  

  • The original EmQue

Rieffe, C., Ketelaar, L., & Wiefferink, C.H. (2010). Assessing empathy in young children; construction and validation of an empathy questionnaire (EmQue). Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 362–367.

  • Lithuanian version

Lazdauskas, T., & Nasvytienė, D. (2021). Psychometric properties of Lithuanian versions of empathy questionnaires for children. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 18(1), 144-159. doi: 10.1080/17405629.2020.1772048.

  • Japanese version

Takamatsu, R., Tsou, Y. T., Kusumi, T., Rieffe, C. (in press). The Japanese Empathy Question-naire (EmQue) for preschool children: Psychometric properties and measurement in-variance across gender. International Journal of Behavioral Development. doi: 10.1177/01650254211022852.

  • German version

For information about the German version, please contact Kexin Liu.

Here you can download different versions of the EmQue:

The English version for parents:

The English version for teachers:

The Dutch version for parents:

The Dutch version for teachers:  

The Lithuanian version for parents:

The Japanese version for parents:

The German version for parents (validating):

The German version for teachers (validating):

Syntax to compute the scales:


Short 13-Item Version

  • Validation of the 13-item Italian version:

Grazzani, I., Ornaghi, V., Pepe, A., Brazzelli, E., & Rieffe, C. (2016). The Italian version of the Emapthy Questionnaire for 18- to 36-months-old children: psychometric properties and measurement invariance across gender of the EmQue-I13. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17405629.2016.1140640

13-Item Italian version for parents:

English items in the 13-item Italian version:

Syntax to compute the scales for the 13-item Italian version:

  • Validation of the 13-item Spanish version:

Lucas-Molina, B., Sarmento, R., Quintanilla, L., & Giménez-Dasí, M. (2018). The Spanish version of the Empathy Questionnaire (EmQue): Evidence for longitudinal measurement invariance and relationship with emotional regulation. Early Education and Development, 29, 467–476.

13-Item Spanish version for parents:

Children and adolescents

The Empathy Questionnaire for Children and Adolescents (EmQue-CA) is an 18 item self-report questionnaire that examines the level of empathy as reported by the child (9-16 years) in three domains: Affective empathy, Cognitive empathy, and Prosocial Motivation.

  • The original version

Overgaauw, S., Rieffe, C., Broekhof, E. Crone, E.A., & Güroğlu, B. (2017). Assessing empathy across childhood and adolescence: Validation of the Empathy Questionnaire for Children and Adolescents (EmQue-CA). Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 870.

  • Lithuanian version

Lazdauskas, T., & Nasvytienė, D. (2021). Psychometric properties of Lithuanian versions of empathy questionnaires for children. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 18(1), 144-159.

  • Italian version

Ziqin, L., Claudia, M. & Elisa, D. (2022). Empathy questionnaire for children and adolescents: Italian validation. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17405629.2022.2096000

  • Portuguese and Polish versions (validating)

Contact Kexin Liu for the most updated citation information.

Here you can download different versions of the EmQue-CA:

The English version:

The Dutch version:

The Lithuanian version:

The Italian version :

The Polish version (validating):

The Portuguese version (validating):

Syntax to compute the scales:

Please note that we currently do not have norm scores or cut-off scores for our questionnaires. Read Frequently Asked Questions for more details.