Family Matters: Growing kindness in children and adults

A fundamental change is needed in social psychology if children and adults are to cope with the challenges and opportunities of life in an integrated and caring society. Writing in The Conversation, psychologist Dr Mike Catlin, with a team of children from the Nurturing Kindness in Children (NKC) programme at the Centre for Research in Health Economics at King’s College London, examines what it takes to nurture kindness in children. Catlin and his team looked at successful experiments that have proved the power of kindness to improve the lives of children, in a broad range of circumstances.

The paper discusses the origins of child-centred psychology – where children are central to the system of policies and practices intended to care for children; the transformative aspects of what it takes to nourish kindness in children; how social psychologists, psychologists and clinicians can promote kindness in children; the role of teachers in this; and how integration and compassion can be encouraged through social media, virtual reality and new technologies.

These findings would also apply to adults – “spreading kindness and care to everybody” – but due to the complexity of their lives, they may not be so easily supplied with beneficial beliefs and ideas. This suggests that we need to rethink what we can expect from the wider world if we are to cope with the challenges and opportunities of a welcoming, caring society, Catlin says. He concludes that though the psychological aspects of such a society may be fundamental to a person’s happiness, we may have to broaden our emphasis by thinking about the wellbeing of a person’s broader social network.

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