Campus: CSU Bakersfield -- April 24, 2002

CSU Bakersfield Professor Study on Helping Children to Develop Emphathy

Helping children develop empathy encourages positive social development and may be what keeps them from turning to a life of crime.

According to California State University, Bakersfield child development professor, Cary Larson-McKay, a common characteristic found among criminals exhibiting violent behavior is a lack of empathy. Studies also show that developing empathy in young children is one way to help curtail these negative acts.

As a way to help parents and teachers develop empathy in children, Larson-McKay and the CSUB Child, Adolescent and Family Studies students are seeking contributions for a book they're compiling called "The Kindness of Children." The book will record and celebrate the many ways in which children exhibit empathy such as showing concern for a sick parent, sibling or animal.

"We want to help others learn how to help children develop empathy," Larson-McKay said. "We hope the book will be used as a toolbox arsenal to teach parents and teachers how to reinforce or encourage empathy. In order to do this, children need to be taught how to get in someone else's place and see how events affect them."

Larson-McKay said she and her students undertook the project after the shocking events at Columbine High School. As child development majors, they wanted to investigate the causes of violent behavior in children and develop a guide to assist others in combating the problem. They've been compiling research and information since that time but need more to complete the project.

Larson-McKay hopes to finish the book by the end of the year. She encourages anyone with stories, pictures, poems, or audio or videotapes about a child being kind to submit their material for inclusion in the book. The information may be submitted in any multimedia form including electronic, published books and journal articles. The information will also be placed on the CSUB Child, Adolescent and Family Studies Program web-site.

Larson-McKay wants the book to be factual, informative and visually appealing.

"What I really want out of it is a coffee table book that's gorgeous and slick and make people really want to look at it," she said.

Participation is voluntary and all requests for anonymity will be honored. Each submission regarding a minor must include a release signed by the adult responsible for the care of the minor.

For more information or to obtain a release form, please contact Cary Larson-McKay, CSUB School of Education, 9001 Stockdale Highway, Bakersfield, Calif. 93311-1099; or by phone at 661/664-3286.

CONTACT: Becky Zelinski, 661/664-2138,; or Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456,

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