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Surviving Childhood Adversity Builds Empathy in Adults

  • Published: October 16, 2020

Experiencing traumatic events as a child is predictive of higher levels of depression in adulthood, and also predicts higher levels of aggression, violence, personality disorders, as well as several physical health problems. Causality is not always clear, as trauma, genetics, and environmental factors intertwine in complex ways. But it is clear that traumatic events can, and do, have starkly negative impacts on peoples’ lives.

But there are few things in life that have universally unidirectional effects. In other words, even bad things can have a silver lining. I’ve heard countless patients sit on my couch and reflect that having survived the things they did has given them the ability to understand how other people can hurt. “After what I experienced from my mother, I could never inflict that kind of pain on any other person, much less my children—I know exactly how much it hurts, and how those scars affect you,” one patient told me. Research now supports this, finding that people who experienced childhood trauma have a greater ability to empathize with others.

In groundbreaking research published in the journal PLoS One, New York and Cambridge researchers explored what relationship…Read More

Martin Mohr

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