We’re Getting Less Empathetic

Parenting shaming seems to be on the rise lately– could this be a sign that Americans are getting less empathetic? Recently a child tragically died at Walt Disney World after being attacked by an alligator, and people on social media were quick to place blame for the attack on the child’s parents. In response to the backlash, Melissa Fenton, a writer for the parenting website Scary Mommy, wrote a plea for compassion on Facebook. She notes that previously child-in-peril stories garnered support, not judgement. Researchers note the human brain is wired for both empathy and moral judgement, but that some facets of modern American culture may lead people to pass more moral judgement and offer less empathy. Experts say that particularly in individualistic culture, like modern America, people tend to judge themselves by their intentions in a situation, and others by their actions. This type of thinking means, if your kid gets away from you at the zoo, you can list the reasons why, while if someone else’s kid slips away at the zoo, it’s because that person is a bad parent. Stephanie Coontz, a historian of families at The Evergreen State College in Washington adds, “People used to think accidents were normal– acts of God, or just random bad luck. And precisely because life was less safe then, people were less inclined than today to have the expectation that life would be safe if no one screwed up.” (CBS News