Understanding How Children Develop Empathy

The New York Times:

The mother was trying to hold the baby still, and I was pulling gently on the ear, angling for a better look at the infant’s eardrum. The wriggling baby didn’t like any of it, and her whimpering quickly turned to full-fledged wails.

Suddenly the baby’s 3-year-old brother, an innocent bystander in no danger of having his own ears examined, began to wail as well, creating the kind of harmonic cacophony that makes passers-by wince in recognition. And the poor mother, her hands full, could only look over and reassure him: Your sister is O.K., don’t worry, don’t feel bad.

Nancy Eisenberg, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, is an expert on the development in children of prosocial behavior, “voluntary behavior intended to benefit another.” Such behavior is often examined through the child’s ability to perceive and react to someone else’s distress. Attempts at concern and reassurance can be seen in children as young as 1.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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