Fearless children show less empathy

A new Israeli study shows that preschool-age children who demonstrate fearless behavior also reveal less empathy and higher levels of aggression toward their peers. The results of the study, carried out at the University of Haifa’s Faculty of Education, “show …

A new Israeli study shows that preschool-age children who demonstrate fearless behavior also reveal less empathy and higher levels of aggression toward their peers.

The results of the study, carried out at the University of Haifa’s Faculty of Education, “show that fearless behavior in children can be identified and is related to neurological and genetic predisposition.

“This type of behavior has less correlation – at least in infancy – with standards of educational processes or parenting practice,” says Dr. Inbal Kivenson-Baron, who carried out the study.

The study observed 80 children aged three to four. It was found that the more fearless children tended toward behavior such as taking advantage of friends, emotional shallowness and a lack of regret or guilt after doing something socially unacceptable.

Interestingly, the more fearless children were found to be quite sociable. “These children connect with other children, they are friendly and smiley; but they find it difficult to identify distress in a friend, and show less interest in helping that friend,” says Kivenson-Baron.

“Since fearless behavior correlates with genetic and neurological characteristics, it is important to find the most effective ways – through education at the preschool and at home – to assist these children in developing the ability to recognize and value social prohibitions… [and] to awaken those emotions that are necessary for the development of empathy toward another and for refraining from aggressive behavior,” she concludes.