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Child Development

If we were asked to describe the sort of person we would be most frightened of, we might well think of a man whose intellectual powers were outstanding and properly trained but who had no `heart' and no feelings. Such a person, we might think, would be capable of any enormity... We may also recall occasions when we have heard people say about their children's education: `I don't care how clever he is, or how many qualifications he gets out of school. As long as his heart's in the right place he won't go far wrong.' ... Parents and Educational writers have consistently criticized schools for failing to out the `heart' of their pupils `in the right place', or in modern terms for failing to educate their emotions. There can be no doubt of the very great importance of affective education [Dunlop, 1984].

Emotional development in the pre-operational child progresses through several stages. The first skill to be acquired is emotional recognition, then expression, and a development of a sense of self, until finally the child internalizes these lessons and becomes aware of other people's feelings. The final stage of acquiring empathy is not an end unto itself. Each individual develops differently, some end up with more social understanding and awareness of emotions and affect than others. I have chosen to explore the viability of using an emotionally reactive toy to augment the initial development of compassion and emotional understanding in young children. The study of the refinement of empathic development in older children is left for future work.

Dana L Kirsch
Tue May 25 08:59:22 EDT 1999