Roots of Empathy Programme to be evaluated by Qa

The Roots of Empathy Programme aims to help children develop emotional skills by witnessing mother and baby interactions. Photograph on Wikimedia by Vera Kratochvil

Action for Children’s Roots of Empathy (RoE) Programme in Scotland is to be evaluated by Qa Research starting in September and to be completed in the summer of 2015.

Programme background

Roots of Empathy is a classroom based programme which reduces levels of aggression within school children while increasing social and emotional competence and developing empathy. It involves family visits to the classroom with a baby as the focus – the baby is the teacher.

There are nine visits over the school year and the children observe the loving parent-child relationship, and grow to understand the baby’s intentions and emotions.

All of these visits are preceded and followed by a session designed to prepare the children and reinforce learning.

A trained Roots of Empathy instructor leads activities designed to help pupils to identify and understand their own feelings and the feelings of others, what makes them unique and how to care for the baby safely.

Aims of the Evaluation

We will be evaluating the mediating impact of empathy in pupils aged 5-8 years old, participating in the programme in Scotland.

The two main objectives of the research are to examine:

  • The extent to which the Roots of Empathy intervention is working for young children (aged 5-8) in terms of reducing school-based aggression and improving school based social-emotional functioning
  • The expected mechanism of change by conducting mediation analysis around changes in empathy in these young children

The mediation analysis will investigate changes in empathy-driven behaviour in various stages such as the extent to which the child recognises the emotions of others, is able to identify with the feelings of others and then act on those feelings – perhaps to assist or support others.

Approach to the study

We’ll be working with Glasgow University to apply specific evaluation models, including using standardised validated scales, in order to measure changes in empathy in the 5-8 year olds that have experienced the intervention. We’ll also be researching a group of children in the same age bracket that have not experienced the intervention in order to compare differences in behaviour change.

Methods to capture the data include:

  • Online survey of teachers to track changes in their pupils’ behaviour
  • Face to face interviews with children aged 5-8 that have experienced the intervention
  • Face to face interviews with children aged 5-8 that have not experienced the intervention
  • Interviews with other stakeholders in the programme, such as teachers, RoE instructors, psychologists and parents

The data collection process will take place before the intervention begins in order to provide baseline data and then repeated during the spring of 2015 post intervention to measure impact and make comparisons with pupils that did not receive the intervention.

The final report for the evaluation will be submitted in July 2015 and likely to be published shortly after in academic peer-reviewed journals.

For more information about the study contact Julie Wrigley on