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Could dogs help to reverse the trend of declining empathy in society?

Recent research suggests that they may be helpful...


A recent research study with college students in the U.S. and published in ’Personality and Social Psychology Review’ found that self-reported empathy has declined by 40% since 1980, with a particularly steep drop in the last 10 years. During this period, self-reported narcissism has also increased.


On the positive side, research suggests that children in dog owning families are likely to be more empathetic and pro-social than children without a dog in the house.


Interestingly, one study found that higher empathy levels in children were evident with dog ownership but not necessarily with other types of pet. 


Even regular contact with dogs can have a positive impact on children’s empathy and compassion for others (not just animals) as has been demonstrated by a violence prevention program designed for at-risk youth in Los Angeles. It reports that for many children, it helps to stop the cycle of violence and enables them in becoming more productive citizens.

These findings would suggest that learning to respect and care for dogs and to tune into their feelings is likely to help children grow up into more empathetic adults who care, not only for themselves, but also for animals and other people.

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