Volume 38, Issue 3 p. 175-182

Promotion of Empathy and Prosocial Behaviour in Children Through Humane Education

Kelly L. Thompson

Kelly L. Thompson

Monash University, Australia

Search for more papers by this author
Associate Professor Eleonora Gullone PhD, FAPS

Corresponding Author

Associate Professor Eleonora Gullone PhD, FAPS

Monash University, Australia

Department of Psychology, Monash University, Monash, VIC, 3800, Australia, E-mail: e.gullone@med.monash.edu.auSearch for more papers by this author
First published: 02 February 2011
Citations: 78

Abstract

While the importance of normative levels of empathy and prosocial behaviour is becoming increasingly recognised, it has been suggested that modern western industrialised society is not conducive to the promotion of empathy development in children. Related to this, it has been proposed that one method for contributing to the building of empathy is to encourage direct contact with animals. The rationale for this is the belief that by developing a bond with animals, empathy toward other living beings will be encouraged. Consequently, it has been proposed that empathy directed at non-human animals will transfer to humans. Such cross-species association has been demonstrated for animal abuse. For example, some studies have reported that childhood cruelty toward animals is related to interpersonal violence in adulthood. Humane education programs aim to intervene in the cycle of abuse by decreasing a child's potential to be abusive toward animals, and, as a consequence, to promote prosocial behaviour toward humans.