How Disasters and Trauma Can Affect Children’s Empathy

TIME:

Do children become more kind and empathetic after a disaster— or does the experience make them more focus more on self-preservation?

The first study to examine the question in an experimental way shows that children’s reactions may depend on their age.

“Our study demonstrates that a natural disaster affects children’s pro-social tendencies, and [does so] differently depending on their age,” says study co-author Jean Decety of the University of Chicago. “Young ones’ acute response is to become more egoistic and older ones’ [immediate response is to become] more altruistic.” The research, which was led by Kang Lee of the University of Toronto will be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science.

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