Saturday, May 14, 2011

How Early Do Humans Show Empathy?

Empathy allows us to understand and share the feelings of another person. Empathy makes us good citizens and reminds us that the world does not revolve around us. It pushes us to acknowledge the people around us as we participate in their emotional lives. Empathy is what makes other people matter to us.

My adult children brought their kids, (my grandsons) to visit this past weekend. The babies, being born only two weeks apart in 2009 are now 14 and almost 15 months old. Even though their personalities are totally different, Jonas and Liam play pretty well together. But already they are showing signs of jealousy. If I hold one, I have to hold the other one too. Same with toys and Goldfish crackers! One for each—no favorites. So, I was really surprised when I found them showing empathy at such an early age in their moral and social development.

The boys have only been walking a couple of months and they are still a little unsteady on their feet. They were hugging each other when Jonas fell backward and bumped his head on the wall. Liam squatted down next to him as if to see if his cousin was okay. I was amazed! He really seemed to care that Jonas fell down. Who knows? Maybe he was just checking to make sure he didn’t have an extra Goldfish clinched in his fist. I did some research about this and found that according to Dr. Kyle Pruett, children’s brains develop empathy from birth to age eight. As early as nine months children learn that other people have emotions. I saw this in Jonas on Sunday. He was flinging his arms while his mom was feeding him. He accidentally hit his mom in the face. When she jumped back and said, “Ouch!”, Jonas hung his head down as if he was sorry for his action.

Empathic children become empathic adults. Jonas’ brother, Sidney, is almost ten years old. I’m forever impressed with the love, respect, and concern he shows his baby brother as they play together. This makes me wonder if empathy is a learned behavior or if it is a human instinct to care for one another. Your thoughts on this are appreciated. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

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Yvonne Perry is a metaphysical teacher helping people transform their lives through a liberating view of our oneness with the Divine. Serving as a prophetic voice of healing, she hosts a weekly talk show in which she interviews guests who see their true selves as loving, accepting, and unified spirit beings awakening to their spiritual potential. Yvonne offers encouragement through her lectures, workshops, and discussion group forums. http://weare1inspirit.com/
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