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Promotion of empathy and prosocial behaviour in children through humane education

By Kelly L. Thompson, Eleonora Gullone

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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. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)

Publication Title Australian Psychologist
Volume 38
Issue 3
Pages 175-182
ISBN/ISSN 0005-00671742-9544
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/00050060310001707187
Author Address Gullone, Eleonora, Department of Psychology, Monash University , Monash, Australia, VIC 3800,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal abuse
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Child development
  4. Children
  5. Education
  6. Empathy
  7. Human-animal relationships
  8. Humane education
  9. Interspecies interactions
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Prosocial Behavior
  12. Violence
  1. peer-reviewed