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

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,043 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
“Bruce Perry is both a world-class creative scientist and a compassionate therapist.”

—Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia


Born for Love is the definitive book on empathy. Renowned psychiatrist Bruce Perry has appeared on Oprah, CNN, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and other programs as an expert in this hot area of neuroscience, and has been cited as suc
ebook, 384 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2010)
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Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Feb 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 arg
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 i ...more
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 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meticulously researched, very readable and so rich in information. I think pretty much EVERYONE should read this book, and specially those of us who are parents.
We have responsibility to put decent, kind, and respectful people into the world and this book gives a strong reality check on what SHOULD be the values we instill in our home.

I loved the other book by this writing pair, this one is equally fantastic.
Zena Ryder
Nov 19, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.)
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  ·  review of another edition
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 and
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Roberta Roy
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changed my life. And I say that knowing full well how hyperbolic it sounds. Though Bruce Perry's book can be a little dry and academic, I couldn't put it down. It was like finding the secret to everything that truly matters, the one thing that connects every self-help book, and every depressed person feeling disconnected and alone. Born for Love taught me that at the end of the day, no matter what, our purpose is to make emotional connections with the people around us. Reading this boo ...more
Winslow Morrell
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book was very well written. I gave it four stars due to the fact that there was one part towards the beginning of the book that bored me. I set it down for a while and picked it back up and loved the rest. I grew a greater appreciation for my parents who probably followed the guidelines in this book for great parenting through and through. The LDS church also sees the importance in this book in THE PROCLAMATION OF THE FAMILY. Family is important and loving your children within a f
Jennie Lee
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great exposition on how empathy is declining in our society with many studies illustrating the writers' thesis. Not that easy to read however because of the amount of scientific findings. Nut an important piece of work for those who care about what we can do to bring back this essential human capacity
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for anyone who works with children or have children. Clear, concise, information about the development of empathy and society.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books about child psychology that I have ever read. Though. It will blended as a parenting book, it is nonetheless a brilliant read for parenting advice.
Some interesting research, but way too simplistic and with a heavy-handed writing style, this fit solidly in the "meh" category for me.
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought provoking.
Celesta Tiner bainbridge
Very informative about empathy and why it is missing. I also enjoyed the what to do to make it better advice.
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually enjoyed reading this book because a lot of it is relevant to my work. It was also a more uplifting book than "The boy who was raised as a dog".
Curtis Lowton
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Half-way through this book, I realized that I was going to need to re-read it with a highlighter. This book contained so much information that I simply couldn't absorb as much as I'd hoped. Some of the case studies and facts from this book will stay with me for the rest of my life. This is a must-read for anyone who works in mental health or education.
Jul 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, trauma
An extremely relevant book for our society today. These authors clearly “get it”.

One of the best reductionist arguments I have ever seen for why “Love” is so important. Using various findings from neuroscience, the authors explain the picture that is emerging from this research and the practical implications for our society, including: methods of child rearing, our living in a highly mobile technological society, and our current response to social problems – among other things.

People (and some a
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In spite of what the title of this book may imply, this book is not a random person's touchy-feely ruminations on the topic of love. It was written by Bruce Perry, who has all the academic chops (MD and PhD) and experience (Senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Texas) to back up what he is writing about. And what he is writing about is how empathy connects us as individuals and as a society, and how its value is changing. Dr. Perry is a child psychologist who specializes in helping childr ...more
Julie Miller
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perry is an international expert on how childhood trauma, and uses concrete examples to show how abuse or neglect leaves developmental gaps in children's brains.

Without empathy the ability to love is lost. These kids are desperate for love, but their ability to learn is deficient due to the trauma and chaos of the first four years of life, during which their brains were literally organizing. Perry tells us how every single religion of the world tells us to treat others as we would want to be tre
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empathy 1 1 Sep 16, 2015 10:51PM  
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“We ignore the emotional needs of young children at our peril.” 7 likes
“By understanding and increasing just this one capacity of the human brain, an enormous amount of social change can be fostered. Failure to understand and cultivate empathy, however, could lead to a society in which no one would want to live—a cold, violent, chaotic, and terrifying war of all against all. This destructive type of culture has appeared repeatedly in various times and places in human history and still reigns in some parts of the world. And it’s a culture that we could be inadvertently developing throughout America if we do not address current trends in child rearing, education, economic inequality, and our core values.” 4 likes
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