What is the deal with helpless children? Proposal looking at the difference between empathy for children versus adults

When I came to campus, I found that a lot of the clubs and organizations have many charitable events.  Obviously, this is super impressive, and something that they should be proud of; however, what I noticed is that they are all mostly “for the kids.”  As the year has progressed, I have seen my friends (mainly through social media) makes posts about all of the charitable events that they are participating in (5K walks/runs, fundraisers, seminars) and again, they are “for the kids.”  This brought me to question why, as a society, most of our fundraisers and charities are focused on “the kids.”  I find myself in this trap, too. When I am older, I intend on becoming a doctor; yet, every field of medicine I imagine involves helping children: pediatrician, pediatric oncology, pediatric cardiology, neonatology… and the list goes on! While I support a society that supports its children—as they are the ones who are the future of this country—why don’t we support “the adults” of society as much?—after all, they are the ones who would be running the show currently. This has made me wonder if we have equal empathy for both adults and children, and if this poses any issues to society.

In order to answer this question, I first intend to look at children’s charities and research why they are so powerful and popular to support.  I am from Boston, so one of the popular charities in our city is the “Jimmy Fund.” While it currently is a charity for adults and children with cancer, it was started just to support adults. The logo of it is even of a boy—I suppose he is “Jimmy”—is an iconic one to our city.  The Jimmy Fund is a donor to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (previous the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation), and sponsors some iconic events: The Pan-Mass Challenge, Jimmy Fund’s Scooper Bowl, and many more. I intend to answer why it is that the image of a child that makes this foundation so strong and powerful in Boston.

The source titled “The Price of being Beautiful: Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Empathy for Children in Need” will help me look at and address any problems that come with only supporting children.  It looks at the social and economic issues regarding empathy for “children in need.”

This topic relates to our class on empathy because my essay will address why we have so much empathy for children, and not nearly as much for adults.  The answer to this question will involve the identifiable victim effect, the idea of “witnessing,” and barriers to empathy (as suggested in Morton’s essay and in my blog series.) Other questions I intend to answer are: what is so ~attractive~ about sick or helpless children? Is it difficult to feel empathy for adults? Does the empathy for children have to do with our parenting instincts? Is there something universal about children that isn’t present with adults?  What are some ways to increase empathy for adults, without decreasing empathy for children?

(Intended) Works Cited

Basil, Debra Z., Nancy M. Ridgway, and Michael D. Basil. “Guilt and Giving: A Process Model of Empathy and Efficacy.” Psychology and Marketing 25.1 (2008): 1-23. Web.

Calos, Katherine. “Poll: Americans must Aid Poor Kids / Survey for Henrico Charity Details Empathy for World’s Children.” Richmond Times – Dispatch 2010. Web.

Einolf, Christopher J., Deborah M. Philbrick, and Kelly Slay. “National Giving Campaigns in the United States: Entertainment, Empathy, and the National Peer Group.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 42.2 (2013): 241-61. Web.

Fisher, Robert J., and Yu Ma. “The Price of being Beautiful: Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Empathy for Children in Need.” Journal of Consumer Research 41.2 (2014): 436-50. Web.

Gabriel, Iason. “Economies of Empathy: The Moral Dilemmas of Charity Fundraising.” Let’s Talk Development. The World Bank Group, 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.

Moszynski, P. “Charity Condemns Child Survival “Lottery”.” BMJ 336.7641 (2008): 408-. Web.

Verhaert, Griet A., and Dirk Van den Poel. “Empathy as Added Value in Predicting Donation Behavior.” Journal of Business Research 64.12 (2011): 1288-95. Web.

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