In order to investigate the empathic development of deaf preadolescents, 21 deaf subjects, ages 9-0 and 14-2, were equally divided into three groups matched for age and mental ability. Group A (congenitally deaf), Group B (prelingually deaf), and Group C (postlingually deaf) were compared on their ability to recognize emotions. The results demonstrate that deaf preadolescents have more difficulty with empathy development than hearing children, and this ability is related to onset of deafness. The implications for social development and treatment intervention are discussed.