How Early Psychosocial Environment Affects Compassion: A 31-years Long Prospective Cohort Study on the Development of Dispositional Compassion

Project description

In the present multicultural world, increasing diversity and clash of cultures pose a risk for a rise in extremist attitudes and violence between different social and cultural groups. Compassion is a fundamental element for building social harmony and understanding. Despite the growing interest in compassion, so far little is known about the developmental origins of compassion and how the development of compassion could be supported over the life course. This project will be the first large-scale longitudinal prospective study examining 1) the childhood developmental origins of dispositional compassion in adulthood 2) adulthood predictors of compassion and 3) how psychological and genetic factors interact in explaining individual variability in compassion.

The project is a part of a population based, prospective Young Finns cohort study with over 3500 participants in the baseline who have been followed up regularly for 31 years from their childhood into adulthood. In this extremely unique data set, we have information on the participants’ childhood family environment, genes and on their adulthood compassion, as well as on potential adulthood predictors of compassion, such as mental and physical well-being.

Our results will inform parents, child care centers, and governmental decision makers for example on the potential role of parent-child relationship, breastfeeding and the form of child care in increasing dispositional compassion. Moreover, this pioneering project produces novel information on the effects of early psychosocial environment and genes on the development of compassion, and in the long run, this information will help in building more harmonious and equal societies.

Project coordinator

University of Oulu


Mirka Hintsanen