Empathy Is Natural, but Nurturing It Helps

Lacking empathy, people act only out of self-interest, without regard for the well-being or feelings of others. The absence of empathy fosters antisocial behavior, coldblooded murder, genocide….

If children are to relate positively to others, they must feel secure themselves and “have a secure attachment to another person,” said Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin. Infants and young children whose own distress is ignored, scorned or, worse yet, punished can quickly become distrustful of their environment and feel unsafe.

Nancy Eisenberg, a psychologist at Arizona State University, agreed. “Children need a positive, caring relationship with their parents or caretakers,” she said in an interview, “if they are to be able to go beyond themselves to care about others.”

“Empathy comes from being empathized with,” Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine, wrote in his book “Great Kids” (Da Capo, 2007).