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Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential--and Endangered

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,626 ratings  ·  160 reviews
An inside look at the power of empathy: Born for Love is an unprecedented exploration of how and why the brain learns to bond with others—and a stirring call to protect our children from new threats to their capacity to love

From birth, when babies' fingers instinctively cling to those of adults, their bodies and brains seek an intimate connection, a bond made possible by e
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by William Morrow
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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  1,626 ratings  ·  160 reviews

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Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Will increasing empathy solve all the world's problems? Of course not. But few of them can be solved without it."

And so ends Born for Love by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz, a book about the nature of empathy and its importance in modern society. The authors examine the development of empathy in babies and young children, how factors such as race and socioeconomic status affect empathy, and how empathy allows us to live longer and more meaningful lives. Perry and Szalavitz examine empathy from
Tess Taylor
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, read-psychology
5- This is an important and well-written book. It's easy to read, although sad and poignant at times. I recommend it for anyone who has children in their life and wants to improve our collective future.
Feb 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I didn't find "Born for Love" as tightly written as the authors' other effort "The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog"; there was a fair amount of repeated material within the book.

Still, I enjoyed the book & there were many fascinating tidbits. The overall message is that relationships matter, love matters, and early experiences are foundational (even to the point of altering DNA expression via epigenetics).

I thought the authors relied too heavily on anthropologist Sarah Hrdy's theories. Hrdy argues
This book approached the issue of empathy from all sorts of angles: developmental psychology, sociology, history, etc. I thought the case studies the authors used to show how empathy develops (or doesn't) in children were particularly useful, and they also connected lack of empathy to economic inequality in a way that I rarely see other authors do. It's not surprising that deficits in empathy have such major implications in society.

However, I think the authors were a little too careless with the
Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was intrigued by Born for Love, but I did not expect to love and appreciate it as much as I did! The writing style was approachable and engaging, as Perry & Szalavitz alternate between explaining concepts of early childhood attachment & development and giving specific case examples. Perry and Szalavitz discuss how empathy is developed (or hindered) and how we can nurture the seeds of empathy, citing many relevant, recent, and critical research studies. They also discuss the long-term implicati ...more
Why Empathy is this important?

Because your very survival depends on it. We are one of the few species that have their babies taken care of by other adults apart from their parents, so cues that a baby gives, and hopefully that the adults percieve are essential for this dependent tiny being! Also, they might not speak but their gestuelles and micro behaviours are so loud for empaths to see!

As for it being a personal pick, I think that this was natural after being fully immersed in Brene Brown t
Dec 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-not-great
I really enjoyed this book and felt like I really learned a lot but... I had to force myself to sit down and finish it. This definitely wasn't the book I thought it was going to be. I had the misconception that this was going to be a book that relates empathy with social awareness and social context of today. Although some of these things were discussed, the book was primarily about how our brains develop empathy and the dangers of a deficit of it. It was much more of an educational book on neur ...more
Sara Midura
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Bruce Perry has written now two books that have changed my perspective on life. This book is riveting, terrifying, and inspiring all in one. A must-read.
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is it--definitely my recommendation for the year. EVERYONE should know this!!!
Wonder if/how it would have changed my parenting if I'd read it B.K. (before kids).
Seriously I could NOT stop thinking about all the great material in here and I wanted to talk about it with everyone I saw (sorry if I was annoying). I still do.
I'm going to buy and re-read this book, and see if I can get my husband to read selections as well.
One downer-- it fades at the end. It took me 10 times longer to read the
Zena Ryder
Nov 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I really can't be bothered to read books that purport to be "scientific", but that don't provide proper notes and references. An author could just make up any old crap (or provide the spin they like best) and if they don't give references for their claims, why should I believe them?

I think it's great to write popular science books, but this shouldn't be at the expense of proper references. (If it makes a book too long, they could be put online.)
Rori Rockman
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
I have mixed feelings about this one. It had some intriguing insights into how the human brain works, particularly in reference to the concept of mirror neurons and the idea that empathy is actually (in part) instinctual and part of human biology. But I think I went into the book with my expectations set too high. I had recently read Perry's first book, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook, and was impressed at how elegantly the author struck a ...more
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
In the beginning I was intrigued with the exploration of just how important relationship/connection is for humans and how we develop (or fail to develop) empathy. Eventually this book just turned into information overload. I could not finish. It is not useless, so I'd still say it's worth exploring.
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great book for any person who wants to have children, has young children or who works with children to learn more about how empathy is developed and how the nervous system is wired through connection with several close caregivers to help children connect with others in our world and become resilient, empathic adults.
Aaron Earl
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another great book written by Dr. Perry and his counterpart. If you’re interested in psychology, particularly child psychology, this is a must read!
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was required reading for a professional development class I am taking on Kindness. I teach 8th grade science and want to bring more kindness to my classroom. I'm distressed by the drama that takes place amongst middle school students and hope to bring more safety, trust, and inclusion into my classroom. This book was interesting and it gives me a better understanding of the source for the behavior I see on a daily basis with my students.
Eve Robinson
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great exploration of human connection and why it matters.
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
In Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered Bruce Perrry states what seem so obvious, but nevertheless important, we need to appreciate and nurture our ability to love and connect.

Bruce Perry says it again, we are wired to connect to one another though eye gaze, facial expressions, touch, neurotransmitters being released, etc. He sounds the alarm on our current childcare behaviors. Children left to television sets, computer screens, overcrowded daycares, etc. are not engaging an
Christiana Martin
Although still good, I didn't enjoy this second book by Bruce Perry as much as the first, and I wouldn't consider it a must-read for others. Primarily, this book describes common thoughts on development of empathy from a neurological and evolutionary psychology perspective, and again uses case studies from Dr. Perry's work to highlight points. However, the case studies were less illustrative, and I felt this book lacked the forward moving narrative feel of his previous book. Additionally, becaus ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very satisfying read. I am now officially a huge fan of Dr. Bruce Perry. This book covers a lot of bases. Perry uses his impressive clinical experience and the latest in neuroscience advances to explore everything from autism to psychopathy to the outcome of various forms of childhood neglect and "adverse childhood events" and comes to some fascinating conclusions of what this means about human nature, treatment and prevention approaches and society in general. Perry and Szalavitz go on from t ...more
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book opened my perspective of other people and made me have more empathy for everyone. I was able to remember once again that we can never judge other people, having no idea what has shaped their world. The book was very sad honestly, as it discussed the many ways young children's lives go wrong to prevent them from properly developing empathy. Or properly developing at all. Reading this book makes me want to save all the children. Ask Taylor, I keep telling him I need to save the c ...more
Sarah Zielke-hoglund
I enjoyed the message, but found this book did not flow as well as The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog. I was disappointed in the material. It seemed to lack some depth and I don't doubt that the research is good, but it maybe was not explained as well as it could have been. I lost interest part of the way through but finished it and I'm glad I did because the last few chapters were easier to follow than the rest of the book.
Aug 04, 2018 added it
'Our children live in a culture of endless cries of "think of the children"--and attend schools that are crumbling, overcrowded, understaffed, and short on necessary supplies. They hear again and again about "family values"--but see their parents struggle to pay for health care or childcare, often isolated from family and friends and disconnected from neighbors. They hear talk about caring and sharing--but see around them mainly fear, arguments based on personal attacks, and competition.'

This book is fascinating. The way empathy develops from day 1 of life - astonishing. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to be a better human. :)
Roberta Roy
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For every caring person in this online age. Read it, use it as a guide to child raising or find yourself and learn why you have or fail to have the kind of empathy you'd like to have.
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It will probably surprise few to learn that we live in a society of increasing relational poverty, apathy and tribalism. But the premise of this book is that it doesn't have to be this way. Through the stories of people who demonstrate the entire spectrum of empathy, accessible explanations of the neurobiology and brain chemistry involved, and a resoundingly compassionate narration, it becomes clear that as a species, we really are built for love, only sometimes our environment gets in the way. ...more
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Once again, Bruce Perry (and Maia Szalavitz) have created true genius. I have finally had the opportunity to meet this wonderful human being this past weekend and I have to say that his books absolutely do justice to (one of the) person(s) authoring them (I reserve my judgment of Maia until we cross paths). In a similar vein to The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog, Perry and Szalavitz describe case-by-case examples of what is commonly referred to as resilience, the importance of early attachment and ...more
Clifford Nelson
Oct 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the most significant advancements in modern psychology is Attachment Theory. You can see how much it has changed the way psychologists deal with relationships in books by John Gottman, such as "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" and how this has evolved in books by Stan Tatkin and Sue Johnson. What this book does is go through many cases of working with Children that have been raised in environments where there is a lack of empathy in their early years handled by Bruce Perry. ...more
Lim Weng Chiat
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you have not read Bruce Perry's The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, I highly recommend to start with that first.

Compared to that book, Born for Love is less focused on the personal case studies but delivers more on the science and information behind the importance of empathy. At times, the material can get a little dry and there may also be information overload. Nevertheless, after finishing the book, I wished I had highlighted the many evidence-based research that Bruce Perry quoted along the
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another remarkable and critically important book by child-psychiatrist Dr. Perry and the always engaging and amazing science journalist Maia Szalavitz. Born for Love brings even more clarity and purpose to this moment. It makes the case that we need and depend on one another; that our collective well being depends on increasing our relational health and connections; and that we need to create a society that much more highly values community, cooperation, and empathy.

Born for Love has me reflect
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great presentation of research about how division hurts us and our compassion for others diminishes. The us v them mentality and the rich further divided from the majority middle class play a big role in people feeling this way - this was written in 2010.

When under constant stress as a child, your stress response stops working correctly (cortisol won't rise under stress) and one can appear sociopathic.
Maternal depression is similar to 'still face experiment' - babies constantly disorganized and
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