How Disasters and Trauma Can Affect Children’s Empathy |

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.

The ability to study the altruistic and empathetic tendencies of youth before and after a natural disaster emerged after an earthquake struck in May 2008 in Mianyang, China. Scientists from the U.S. and Canada were already collaborating with Chinese researchers in the town in Sichuan province on a study of altruistic behavior when the earthquake, which measured 8.0 on the Richter scale, killed some 87,000 people, including many children.