I saw a fascinating segment on the PBS NewsHour which said that studies have shown that young children (ages 5 - 8 years of age) can be taught empathy by having a class where they observe and learn to care for an infant. The segment stated that this study showed the children would experience increased attention in class and a decreased likelihood that they would bully other children.

However, the report did not mention the actual name of the study. I'd like to read it to get further information. What is the study which shows that babies can teach young children empathy?


1 Answer 1


I found the actual report on the PBS NewsHour. The program which teaches children empathy using infants is known as Roots of Empathy. It's Wikipedia article states:

The Roots of Empathy program effectiveness has been evaluated nine different times by independent reviewers. Overall, the results were positive. The results showed that students who participated in the demonstrated several qualities including an increase in social knowledge, a decrease in aggression, an increase in sharing/inclusive/helping behavior, and an increase in emotional perception. These effects appeared to be lasting.

It does not, however, name these nine different reviews. It does name three publications:

  • Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child Gordon, Mary. Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2005.
  • Family Literacy in Canada: Profile of Effective Practices, Edited by Adele Thomas. Chapter: "Parenting and Family Literacy Centres of the Toronto District School Board" by Mary Gordon, editions Soleil publishing inc., 1998.
  • Child Honoring: How to Turn This World Around, Edited by Raffi Cavoukian, Sharna Olfman. Chapter: "The Power of Empathy" by Mary Gordon, Homeland Press, 2006.

On the Roots of Empathy website I was able to find a PDF Report on Research, which states:

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have taken a lead role in early evaluations of ROE, under the direction of Dr. Kimberly SchonertReichl. Starting in 2000, the team conducted several studies across different grades and populations

and it also mentions eight "Research outcome evaluations to date":

  • UBC 2000-2001 Primary Grade Evalution,1-3
  • HCMO 2001-2004 Randomized Controlled Trial
  • UBC 2001-2002 National Evaluation
  • UBC 2002-2003 Rural/Urban Evaluation
  • UBC 2003-2004 Randomized Controlled Trial
  • UA 2006 Whole Schools Project
  • UA 2006 Grade One Project
  • UBC 2008 Fifth and Sixth Grade Evaluation

But does not provide actual links to the methods, data and results of those evaluations. I was able to find one of them: searching Google for "HCMO 2001-2004 Randomized Controlled Trial" yielded Effectiveness of School-Based Violence Prevention for children and Youth (Robert G. Santos, Mariette J. Chartier, Jeanne C. Whalen, Dan Chateau, Leanne Boyd) which appars to be one of the studies I was seeking.

I would still welcome a complete list with links, but I expect I might not be able to get that, the articles might be behind paywalls.


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