Empathy as the capacity to feel with others is a vital human response. It is especially important in the context of parenting. To date, little is known about differences in empathy responses of parents and non-parents to children and adults. Therefore, in this study functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to shed further light on the interaction of motherhood and behavioural as well as neural responses to stimuli depicting adults and children in pain. Despite similar ratings on the imagined painfulness of the stimuli, mothers showed higher activation in the bilateral anterior insula, key regions of empathy for pain. Additionally, mothers increasingly activated other areas associated with social affect and cognition, including the inferior frontal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus and the medial superior frontal gyrus. Differences between adult and child stimuli were only found in occipital areas. This suggests that mothers have a stronger empathy response than non-mothers regardless of whether the target of their empathy is a child or an adult. This generalised difference in empathy indicates that motherhood might influence overall affective social understanding rather than specifically shape child-related empathy responses.