The Development of Altruistic Behavior Out of Reactive Crying

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Reactive crying, displayed by children as a response to the distress of another, is described as a precursor of helping and caring. There are several stages during the transition from the innate, reactive cry to the intentional response. Children at the age of 6–14 months are able to control their reactive distress response, yet still respond to the distress of others by displaying distress behavior themselves. Two explanations are discussed. According to one explanation, children are confused about what happens to the self and what happens to the other. This explanation is criticized for being based on misunderstandings of the nature of (kinaesthetic) sensations. An alternative and more promising explanation is derived from kin selection theory. According to this explanation, the development of reactive crying and the transition to caring and helping have been shaped by different forces acting on paternally and maternally derived genes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-86
JournalBiological Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

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