• Does exposure to an infant reduce aggression?

    Date: 12.30.10 | by Judge Tom.

    Studies by a Canadian organization called “Roots of Empathy” are turning heads in the fight against bullying and cyberbullying. The program was started in 1996 by Mary Gordon in Toronto, Canada. It has spread to England, New Zealand and the United States.

    Although doctors and scientists can’t explain why they are seeing the results they do, there is no question that grade-school children become less aggressive and kinder to each other following participation in the program.

    Photo from "Roots" website

    “Roots of Empathy” is presented to children in kindergarten to 7th grade. At the beginning of the school year a mother and her infant, who must be between two and four months old, visit the school. A trained instructor leads the class in trying to understand the baby’s feelings. It helps the kids understand their own feelings and the feelings of others. The mother (sometimes the father) and baby return once a month for nine months.

    The children sit on the floor around the baby on a green blanket, meant to represent new life and nature. Teachers observing the program report that they see tough kids smile, disruptive kids focus, and shy kids open up.

    Researchers suspect that biology is playing a role in the program’s impact. A certain hormone is linked to a person’s ability to care and trust. Creating a caring climate among the children brings out their best behaviors. They are encouraged to work as a group in an activity that benefits another human being. In addition to an increase in parenting knowledge, the studies show significant drops in relational aggression including gossiping, excluding others and backstabbing.

    Does your school have anti-bullying programs? Do you have any ideas about effective ways to reduce bullying in school and elsewhere? What do you think of the Roots of Empathy program? Would it work in your school? Do you think it would have an impact on high school teens?

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    • ask the judge
      Thu, 30 Dec 2010 at 03:50

      This program started in Canada has seen wonderful results for all types of elementary kids. http://fb.me/RyWtk7Pg

    • Askthejudge.info
      Thu, 30 Dec 2010 at 03:50

      This program started in Canada has seen wonderful results for all types of elementary kids. http://fb.me/RyWtk7Pg

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