What genetics can say about the empathy of the little ones

How are values ​​transmitted from parents to children? Undoubtedly, education and dialogue play a very important role in this task. Also the fact that the little ones have a mirror to look at and take these references It serves much in the transfer of skills such as empathy, a very important skill in the social development of children.

Now, a new study led by the University of Cambridge shows that the empathy it is a skill in which genetics has a strong influence. The characteristics of each person and the presence of psychological pathologies inherited from parents to children or of autistic spectrum disorders may result in this capacity being lower than the rest.


The influence of genetics in the development of empathy

How does genetics influence the development of empathy? Diego Redolar, neuroscientist and professor of Health Sciences Studies at the Open University of Catalonia, and one of the authors of this work, points out that the influence of the brain must be taken into account. The ability to put yourself in the shoes of other people has a great relationship with the frontal areas of the brain.

As this study showed after the analysis of 46,000 people, those who presented pathologies that prevented the normal development of their brain, such as pathologies such as schizophrenia, or the autism spectrum, had a lower level of empathy.


Redolar explains this by pointing to the neural bases, a "set of brain circuits underlying what we call theory of mind that, in the case of these people, do not work correctly," explains Redolar. In this work it was also discovered that some genetic variants are associated with a level of empathy and are also linked to a risk of autism highest.

Of course, Redolar points out that this study does not mean that there is a gene responsible for empathy. This work focuses on demonstrating how the characteristics of each person, as a whole, are those that can explain the development of this ability to put themselves in the skin of the other. The neuroscientist prefers to talk about "multifactorial functions".

Teaching empathy to children

From the UOC they also point out that although genetic factors can explain the presence of empathic abilities, it is also clear that these cases only represent a 10%. 90% is explained from other perspectives, such as the education that parents offer their children. Here are some tips to convey this skill to the little ones:


- Lead by example. Of the coexistence can arise quarrels where the parents are protagonists, in these small discussions the adults must show empathy and be understanding with the position and feelings of the rest. All an example for the children.

- Promote retraining. Talking with the child about how he feels in certain situations will help him rethink about when he behaves like this and the reactions of his peers.

- Teach the value of listening. How will they be able to put themselves in the shoes of others if they do not listen to how they are? You have to encourage the habit of attending to what the rest is saying and not just what you think.

Damián Montero

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