Chapter 3 The One Rule: emotional expression and empathy improve just about everything
As early as preschool, boys who are able to understand emotions and relate to others are more competent in school. A study from George Mason University and Virginia State University looked at preschool boys and girls, and they discovered that both genders were more ready to perform well in school if they had knowledge of emotions—in other words, they did better at school if they could recognize different emotions in themselves and others. These emotionally knowledgeable students also related better to their teachers and received higher teacher ratings.
In older students, more emotional knowledge (understanding both their own emotions and the emotions of others) leads boys to bully less and their peers seeing them in a positive light. There is even some evidence that these students perform better academically.
An interesting study from 2001 determined that boys have more problems when they have less emotional knowledge. The researchers had boys and their parents look at a series of pictures that would typically evoke either positive emotions, such as happiness, or negative emotions, such as sadness. They discovered that the boys who were less emotionally expressive in relation to the negative-emotion pictures were the ones who had the most behavior problems at home and school.
As far as empathy goes, researchers from all over the world agree that increasing empathy in boys, or their understanding of the emotional states of others, leads to a decrease in aggression and behavioral problems. They also agree that empathy is not one of those traits you either have or you don’t have--it can be taught and learned. The United States, Singapore, China, Italy, Iran ... it doesn’t matter where the study was done, the conclusions were the same. It also didn’t matter how old the boys studied were. Preschoolers as young as three years old were studied. Children in middle schools were studied, and so were high school students. Boys can learn empathy, and it improves their behavior. It decreases physical aggression. It decreases verbal aggression. It decreases bullying. It decreases cyber bullying. It decreases passive aggressiveness. It really works...[read more]