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Home > Empathy, social values and civic behaviour among early adolescents in Ireland: composite report.

Silke, Charlotte and Boylan, Ciara and Brady, Bernadine and Dolan, Pat (2019) Empathy, social values and civic behaviour among early adolescents in Ireland: composite report. Galway: UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland Galway.

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Although there are many definitions available in the literature, empathy is typically understood as a person’s ability to feel and understand the emotions and feelings of others. Empathy is widely seen as the foundation for broader societal attitudes and behaviours, such as social responsibility and prosocial or civic behaviour. Research has shown that empathy and related ‘other-oriented’ values and behaviours are associated with a wide range of positive outcomes in the areas of personal development, interpersonal relationships, and societal well-being.

We are living in an era of great social change, where people’s capacity for empathy remains critical but can be challenged by a range of forces or influences. The emergence of populist politics which have cultivated divisions between groups in society could be seen as a challenge to empathic and civic values. Concerns have been expressed that the increasing individualisation of society over recent decades is leading to declining levels of empathy, social concern, and civic engagement among younger generations. The accelerated advancement of information and communication technology has raised questions as to whether increased online activity among young people will reduce their capacity to empathise with others and change perceptions of what constitutes acceptable behaviour. Others have disputed claims that the current generation is less empathetic than their predecessors, arguing that young people’s civic behaviour is different from previous generations and that technology and social media have facilitated greater social understanding between people.

Given the importance of empathy and related social values to social cohesion and democracy, it can be argued that it is of societal importance that values of empathy and care towards others be given due attention in research and policy. In particular, because the empathic or civic processes that individuals experience in childhood and youth have been found to influence their social values and civic behaviour into adulthood, it is important to explore these issues as they pertain to young people. To date, however, there has been little research conducted on this topic among youth in Ireland.

This study aims to generate empirical evidence regarding the values and experiences of youth in Ireland towards a range of issues which reflect a sense of social responsibility towards others, including an analysis of factors that influence the development of social values and empathy. It also aims to review the degree to which national policy and curriculum supports the promotion of such values. The core research questions guiding this project are:

Item Type
Report
Publication Type
Irish-related, Report
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Prevention, Education and training
Date
2019
Pages
34 p.
Publisher
UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland Galway
Place of Publication
Galway
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