Hodgkins, A. (2019). Advanced empathy in the early years – a risky strength? NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 22(1), pp. 46-58.
Original Research Paper
Advanced empathy in the early years – a risky strength?
University of Worcester, UK
Empathy is commonly accepted as an essential skill for early childhood practitioners and the importance and benefits of empathy are widely understood. However, there is evidence to suggest that the use of advanced empathy techniques can lead to stress and ‘compassion fatigue’ in some practitioners; thus, it can be a ‘risky strength’. The aim of this study was to identify the use of advanced empathy among practitioners and to then identify the emotional impact of this work on their lives. This small-scale research suggests that there is indeed an emotional cost to practitioners and that many practitioners are struggling to find a work-life balance. Although the participants described a wide variety of coping mechanisms there is clearly still a need for focussed and consistent support within the profession. There is also a need to include emotional resilience education in training and professional development courses.
Key words: Empathy; early childhood; professionalism; compassion; stress; coping.
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