The more you know

Empathy development

At birth, empathy manifests itself involuntarily through reflexes, for example the reactive crying of the newborn that occurs when the little one hears another baby crying. Stage 1 is that of self-centered empathy, characterized by the absence of differentiation between the self and the other, the child can express his discomfort in front of the vision of an individual who lives an adverse situation, but will try to console himself from the distress to which it is subjected.

Stage 2 is that of almost egocentric empathy: the child manifests an attempt to help the other but does not do it adequately because he has not cognitively acquired the awareness that the needs of others may be different from his own. The next stage is that of truthful empathy, present as early as 3 years old, in which the child is able to console the other, thus demonstrating a capacity for differentiation between self and other. The last stage is that of empathy as an existential condition, affirms itself during pre-adolescence and adolescence and implies a double cognitive decentralization: the differentiation between the self and the other and between the uncomfortable situation and the contingent one (for example feel compassion in front of a beggar even if he is smiling as the emotion is directed at his condition in life).


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