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Book Chapter

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Caring attitudes and behaviors are rooted in a person’s capacity for empathy. Research (Kestenbaum, Farber, and Sroufe 1989; Brazelton and Greenspan 2000; Hoffman 2000) shows that quality of care and security of attachment affect children's later capacity for cognitive development, emotional regulation, and behavioral control. Nurturing caregiving in a safe environment allows for continued development of neural pathways, which in turn, allows for mastery of increasingly sophisticated cognitive skills necessary for emotion regulation, and social perspective taking (Selman 1980), prerequisites to empathic behavior (Bryant 1985). True empathy requires that an individual possess the capacity to discriminate another person’s affect, see a situation from another person’s perspective, and respond with genuine emotion (Minuchin and Shapiro 1983). However, contextual factors such as extreme poverty, homelessness, chronic exposure to violence, and insufficient nurturing or childcare practices can interfere with cognitive and emotional development, obstructing the capacity to care about others and to behave empathically.