Activated social empathy in child welfare and youth development

A case for consideration

Authored by: Pat Dolan , James Kenny , Danielle Kennan

The Routledge Handbook of Global Child Welfare

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138942752
eBook ISBN: 9781315672960
Adobe ISBN: 9781317374749


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At a most basic level, having and demonstrating empathy with fellow human beings provides the foundational context upon which humanity and positive social understanding is built. This applies across the lifecourse regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. It could be argued that globally, and particularly in the northern and western hemispheres, the value discourses through which children and youth acquire their ‘moral framework’ are shifting alongside changes in the role(s) of religion and society. In the context of developing children and youth as citizens and civic actors, the issue of where young people ‘learn’ their values and the importance of promoting respect, tolerance and social responsibility provide the background for a focus on the role of empathy as a key framework for programme and policy development (Dolan & Brennan 2016). This has resonance for children universally in contexts such as home, school and community, but also more particularly in targeted contexts for children and youth who experience many differing forms of adversity, such as abuse, bullying or racial discrimination. In the case of the enablement of empathy towards those in need, it may well be that, sadly, children who require empathy most from others may or may not be always shown it to a required level.

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