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The aim of this review was to provide an overview of research into the relationship between empathy and bullying. Therefore the review indicated a number of researches that show different effects of empathy on bullying, regarding the type of bullying, roles in bullying behavior, as well as gender. From a review of research it may be concluded that empathy significantly contributes to a reduction in various forms of violence. Most research indicates the importance of the affective component of empathy compared to the cognitive component. The results of research into the relationship of empathy and its role in bullying behavior were less consistent. For this reason, the review highlighted methodological difficulties in the study of bullying and empathy. Conclusion - In conclusion it could be said that most studies show a negative correlation between empathy and various types of violence. Furthermore, it is evident that different components of empathy have differing degrees of influence in direct and indirect forms of violent behavior.
Arta DODAJ1, Kristina SESAR2, Marana BARISIC1, Maja PANDZA1
1Department of Psychology
University of Mostar, Mostar
Bosnia and Herzegovina
2Centre of Mental Health
Široki Breg Health Care Centre
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Arta Dodaj
Faculty of Philosophy
Department of Psychology
University of Mostar
Matice Hrvatske bb
88 000 Mostar
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Tel.: + 387 63 70 56 18
Fax.: + 387 36 332 607
Received: July 18, 2012
Accepted: November, 19, 2012
Copyright © 2013 by
University Clinical Center Tuzla.
E-mail for permission to publish:
The aim of this review was to provide an overview of research
into the relationship between empathy and bullying. Therefore
the review indicated a number of researches that show different
effects of empathy on bullying, regarding the type of bullying,
roles in bullying behavior, as well as gender. From a review of
research it may be concluded that empathy signicantly contri-
butes to a reduction in various forms of violence. Most research
indicates the importance of the affective component of empathy
compared to the cognitive component. The results of research
into the relationship of empathy and its role in bullying behavi-
or were less consistent. For this reason, the review highlighted
methodological difculties in the study of bullying and empathy.
Conclusion - In conclusion it could be said that most studies
show a negative correlation between empathy and various types
of violence. Furthermore, it is evident that different components
of empathy have differing degrees of inuence in direct and in-
direct forms of violent behavior.
Key words: Bullying ▪ Roles in bullying ▪ Empathy
Bullying has become an important public policy issue. To
prevent violence and reduce its consequences, it is nece-
ssary to understand its etiology. One of the most signi-
cant predictors of violence is an individual’s ability to em-
pathize with others. The results of two studies indirectly
showed the potential impact of this construct. Hobson (1)
found signicant difculties in social behavior in children
with autism and psychopathological disorders. He assumed
Review article
Paediatrics Today 2013;9(1):91-101
DOI 10.5457/p2005-114.66
that their behavior is not sensitive to social
rules, primarily due to their inability to un-
derstand the emotions and behavior of other
people. This implies the correlation between
low empathy and various forms of antisocial
behavior. On the other hand, research by Ka-
ukiainen et al. (2) indicated that social intelli-
gence signicantly correlates with violence.
The authors point out that social intelligence
is probably one of the aspects of empathy.
Empathy has further been described as the
ability to understand the emotions of others
as well as the ability to express those emoti-
ons. The question is if empathy is one of the
basic elements of prosocial behavior, and are
the persons who possess a high level of em-
pathy less prone to violent behavior or does
understanding the emotions of others give
them an incentive to recurrent abuse?
Therefore, the primary aim of this paper is
to provide an overview of research dealing with
the relationship between empathy and bullying,
taking into account the roles in bullying and va-
rious forms of violent behavior.
Aggressive behavior
There are many denitions of aggressive be-
havior. However, different researchers agree
that it is a behavior that is intended to harm
another person (3). The most common cla-
ssication of aggressive behavior is reactive
and proactive aggression (3). Reactive aggre-
ssion is behavior that occurs in response to
specic situational conditions, such as thre-
ats and provocations, and is accompanied by
changes in the physiological and emotional
level. Proactive aggression is intentional be-
havior caused by anticipation of a desirable
goal, and is controlled mainly by external re-
inforcement (3).
Bullying represents a form of aggressive
behavior. It is a subset of proactive aggressi-
ve behavior. It occurs due to the anticipation
of someone’s desirable goal (which can be
achieved by aggressive behavior) or domina-
tion over others, such as abuse (4).
There are numerous denitions of bullying,
but they all refer to bullying as repeated inti-
midation, over time, of a physical, verbal and
psychological nature, of a less powerful per-
son by a more powerful person or group of
persons. It is repetitive and encompasses an
intrinsic power imbalance between the bully
and the person being bullied, who generally
is incapable of self-defense (5).
Any form of intentional negative acti-
on can be divided into two categories: di-
rect and indirect violence. Direct violence is
openly aggressive behavior happening “face
to face“. There are two subtypes of direct
violence. Physical violence is the intentional
iniction of bodily injury such as pinching,
shoving and poking, punching and kicking,
slapping, beating etc. Verbal violence often
accompanies physical and it includes insul-
ting remarks, spreading rumors, verbal tea-
sing, name calling etc. Indirect (relational)
violence involves socially manipulative forms
of aggressive behavior that aim to hurt the
other person emotionally. This kind of vi-
olence is manifested by the threat of social
isolation, gossip, exclusion from the group,
rejection, etc. Cyber bullying has recently
emerged as a new form of bullying, which is
a form of potentially offensive behavior over
the Internet or mobile phone (5).
There are four characteristic proles that
can differ in bullying: children who are expo-
sed to bullying or victims, children who bully
others or bullies, children who experience
bullying but themselves behave violently or
bully/victims, as well as the children who
are not in any way involved in bullying, or
neutral children (6). Bullies are portrayed as
academically uneducated, anxious, insecure
persons prone to violence in order to solve
Paediatrics Today 2013;9(1):91-101
A. Dodaj et al. Empathy in bullying
daily problems (6). Unlike the bullies, victims
are individuals who often suffer from low se-
lf-esteem, anxiety, depression, and are expo-
sed to a number of academic difculties (6).
Bully/victims are characterized as those that
are at risk for a variety of behavioral pro-
blems, such as addiction to alcohol, delinqu-
ency, etc. (7). The group of children who de-
fend victims or neutral children are children
who have high levels of prosocial behavior
and negative attitudes towards bullying (8).
As for the prevalence of bullying, studi-
es indicate that the prevalence, examined in
different countries, ranges from about 4.8%
to 45.2% (9). Relational forms of bullying in-
dicate twice the incidence compared to direct
forms of aggressive behavior (10). However, it
can also be seen that the incidence of bullying
behavior gradually decreases with age and the
student’s progress through the grades (9). The-
re are also signicant gender differences (9, 10).
In relation to girls, boys are more often expo-
sed to bullying and more violent towards other
children. In addition, exposure to direct forms
of bullying affects boys more than girls, while
girls in turn are more often exposed to different
types of indirect forms of bullying (10).
In short, a clear division of roles and
types of bullying, as well as the incidence of
bullying, can be seen from the above. Howe-
ver, it is necessary to provide important insi-
ghts into the risk factors for bullying. In this
paper, the emphasis is placed on an indivi-
dual determinant of bullying: empathy. The-
refore, the emphasis of this paper will be an
overview of the potential impact factors of
empathy to bullying behavior.
Denition of empathy
The term empathy is of relatively recent ori-
gin. In psychological circles, this construct
is accepted as a multidimensional construct
that includes cognitive and emotional com-
ponents (11).
Cognitive empathy is the drive to identify
someone else’s thoughts and feelings, being
able to put yourself into their shoes, to imagi-
ne what is in their mind and how it can affect
you. The emotional component of empathy
is characterized by the response of the same
or similar emotions in relation to the emotio-
nal experiences of another (11). Specically,
this component reects the alignment of
feelings with the feelings of another person.
However, despite the widely accepted
denition of empathy as a two-dimensional
construct, the affective component of em-
pathy is pronounced, since it is considered
that this component is essentially inherent to
empathy. It is possible that the above men-
tioned is partially inuenced by the method
of measuring the construct. Empathy is ge-
nerally assessed using an index derived on
the basis of stories and pictures describing
the situation of others, through assessment
of other empathic reactions, based on a vari-
ety of experimental conditions in which em-
pathy is provoked, which primarily reects
variation in the affective aspect of empathy.
Furthermore, the level of empathy deve-
lopment corresponds to the stages of cogni-
tive development (12). During the rst year
of life, an infant gradually develops global
empathy. Children behave as if what happens
to others happens to them, because they are
unable to distinguish between self and others
as separate physical entities. The second sta-
ge, egocentric empathy, develops at the end
of the rst year of life. At this stage, the child
is able to experience empathy, while also un-
derstanding that the other person, and not
itself, is in trouble. But still, a child is unable
to distinguish between their own internal sta-
tes and others. Empathy for the feelings of
others occurs between the second and third
year of life, after assuming the role of another
child. As a child becomes aware that other
people have different feelings, the child gives
more appropriate responses to the signs that
indicate the feelings of others. Empathy for
another’s life condition appears by the years
of late childhood. Empathic induced affects
are combined with the general state of the
mental images of others. Empathic distress
is the core feeling state of empathy, and this
cognitive appraisal determines whether the
person will have an emotional arousal.
Regardless of which part of the empathy
we are talking about, the advanced construct
allows a person sound judgment of emotio-
nal reactions of others, to provide individuals
with a custom selection of social behavior.
Gender and age dierences in
The results of the studies that examined em-
pathy have shown that there are undoubtedly
a large gender differences in favor of females
(11, 13-15). As for the components of em-
pathy, it was found that girls scored higher on
the affective component, compared to boys
(13). This could mean that gender differen-
ces in empathy signicantly depend on the
quality of the operationalization of the con-
struct (15)
The researchers point out that these gen-
der differences can be interpreted in two
ways (16). Firstly, due to the presence of ste-
reotypes derived from the traditional male
and female gender roles, whereby women are
assumed to be ‘natural’ carers, it is possible
that participants answer in that direction,
conrming the stereotype. Secondly, per-
haps gender differences in empathy arise be-
cause of the different modes of socialization
associated with emotions. Girls are raised by
the principle of care, to be compassionate
towards other people, understanding their
situation, personality traits, moods, while the
boys are brought up to respect the principle
of justice. This supports the principles of
theory of evolution. Specically, if men offer
resources and physical protection of women,
they become more dominant and aggressive.
Developed sensitivity and empathy in men
are not desirable traits in this context. On the
other hand, women’s interest is to keep the
man as a source of resources that will allow
them to survive the context. It is therefore
logical to assume that natural selection in wo-
men develops qualities of empathy and the
ability to connect with others.
In addition to gender differences, there
are also age differences in the level of em-
pathy. Specically, through age-related deve-
lopment of social cognition, it is possible to
understand the emotions of other people,
which are reected in a high level of empathy
(17). The affective component of empathy,
providing the excitement and motivation
properties of emotions, is developed rst
(18). However, with development, the cogni-
tive component, which allows the formation
and transformation of affective experience,
becomes more pronounced (18). Accordin-
gly, it is about the experience that develops
due primarily altruistic, but later and egoistic
motivation to help others.
The relationship between empathy
and aggressive behavior
Most studies (13, 19) have shown that em-
pathy is in a signicant negative relationship
with aggression or aggressive behavior.
Comparing samples of children and adoles-
cents, Lovett and Shefeld (19) showed a si-
gnicant negative correlation only in adoles-
cents. In this case empathy was measured by
self-assessments. But a negative correlation
existed even when using behavioral measures
of empathy and was higher than those obtai-
ned by self-assessment.
On the contrary, Jolliffe and Farrington
(15) found a signicant positive relationship
between empathy and antisocial behavior.
Also, this correlation proved higher among
adolescents and young adults compared to
Paediatrics Today 2013;9(1):91-101
children. Empathic concern and compassion
probably encourage an individual to aggre-
ssive behavior because these individuals are
emotionally able to assess and predict nega-
tive consequences that would have negative
impact on other people.
As for gender difference, Gini et al. (11)
and Stavrinides et al. (13) found a negative
correlation only in boys. From the above it
can be said that empathy has a stronger effect
on promoting prosocial, that is, reducing an-
tisocial behavior in men compared to wo-
men. The stronger effect of empathy in boys
may be due to the different aspects of socia-
lization and the expectations that society sets
for boys and girls (20). Social norms require
girls to be less aggressive and more prosocial,
regardless of whether they feel empathy or
not. Due to such social pressures, the role of
empathy as a motivator of prosocial behavi-
or, that is, an inhibitor of aggressive beha-
vior, decreases. In contrary, the boys decide
freely whether or not to help others, whether
or not to act aggressively, and in such cir-
cumstances the individual empathy can have
a greater impact on behavior.
During testing of the multidimensio-
nal construct of empathy, it was found that
both the cognitive and affective components
of empathy reduce aggressive behavior (2).
However, some studies have shown that only
the affective component of empathy plays a
signicant role in reducing aggressive beha-
vior (21, 22). Gini et al. (11) found that the
affective component of empathy reduces
aggressive behavior, in order to prevent the
emotional stress caused by the situation.
The relationship between empathy
and bullying
Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior
(13). Study of the relationship between em-
pathy and bullying is a relatively new research
area. Nevertheless, from a review of the lite-
rature, several studies point to the negative
correlation between empathy and involve-
ment in bullying others (11, 23).
Caravita et al. (14) suggest that gender is
an important variable that moderates the re-
lationship between empathy and bullying. It
is possible that the mechanisms that lead to
antisocial behavior are different for men and
women (24). Therefore, the combination of
men and women in one category may mask
the impact of empathy on abuse. Since wo-
men, compared to men, score higher on the
affective component, it is logical to expect
different correlations in the group of boys
and girls (11).
Jolliffe and Farrington (24) point out that
the negative correlation between empathy
and aggressive behavior is signicant only
for the affective component. These resear-
chers emphasize that it is possible that bulli-
es have cognitive empathy, but have reduced
affective empathy. Probably the lack of affec-
tive empathy separated those who were pro-
ne to repeated, constant aggressive behavior.
From the above it can be said that it is nece-
ssary to establish a clear distinction between
the cognitive and affective components of
Stavrinides et al. (13) have found that
children tending to express similar or the
same emotions in relation to the emotional
experiences of others are less prone to abu-
se children, and vice versa. Therefore, ba-
sed on the above it can be said that bullies
have the cognitive component of empathy
and understand the emotions of others, but
do not express them. Owning the cognitive
component of empathy provides the ability
to identify the emotional distress and suffe-
ring of the victim, which affects the need for
repeated abuse.
However, the results of other studies do
not support the above. In Finland, Kaukiai-
nen et al. (2) reported that cognitive empathy
was negatively correlated with bullying. If
A. Dodaj et al. Empathy in bullying
the skill of perceiving and understanding
others’ emotions was higher then the level
of exposure to bullying was lower. It should
be noted that these results apply only to the
direct forms of bullying. In indirect forms of
bullying and relational bullying, the negative
correlation was conrmed only for the affec-
tive component of empathy (25). With this
type of violence, understanding of emotions
does not lead to the reduction of violence,
but the same level of emotional experience
as the victim reduces the level of violence.
In other words, the more we enter into the
emotional state of another person, we are
less willing to hurt him/her. Empathizing
with another child would, therefore, need to
override the aggressive impulses of potential
abusers, or to stop the harassment started, or
to encourage witnesses to stand up in defen-
se of the victim.
Furthermore, it is possible that the ne-
gative relationship between empathy and
bullying is not direct. Wentzel et al. (26) fo-
und that the relationship between a low le-
vel of violent behavior and a high level of
empathy was inuenced by many variables,
such as expectations of peers, gender, etc.
Miller and Eisenberg (27) found that the
relationship between empathy and relatio-
nal bullying became insignicant after the
inclusion of socioeconomic status as a con-
trol variable. According to the authors, low
cognitive ability or socioeconomic status
signicantly connects to the lower level of
empathy, which in turn reects on bullying.
From this, it can be said that empathy is not
always the key itself.
The relationship between empathy
and ¨bullying roles¨
The above mentioned empathic relationship
with bullying implies a connection between
empathy and bullying in the group of children
who are violent towards others. Malti et al.
(28) showed that this group has a lower level
of empathy in relation to others. The results
are explained as a mechanism of social-emo-
tional adaptation developed by children who
have been exposed to violence. Often, pres-
chool-age children exposed to abuse from an
early preschool age are also socio-emotionally
immature, without adopted adaptive skills to
cope with -bullying. It could be said that lower
empathy actually serves as a buffer to abused
children and it protects them from subsequ-
ent emotional difculties. In accordance to
this, the results of studies show that victims
with high or moderate levels of empathy have
more emotional difculties compared to chil-
dren who have lower levels of empathy (28).
Therefore, showing empathy does not nece-
ssarily have to be adaptive to the victim, but in
turn can have negative consequences.
In contrast, other researchers have shown
that children exposed to bullying are succe-
ssful in understanding the emotions of
others (25). In relation to the bullies, chil-
dren who are exposed to bullying, as well as
those that belong to the group of prosocial
children, have a greater concern for others
(29). However, exposure to violence often
results in anger and a desire for revenge, with
the inability to control emotions, and it can
be a signicant determinant of victimizati-
on. Therefore, children who are exposed to
bullying often become those that are violent
towards others.
Caravita et al. (23) state that the defenders
of children who are exposed to aggressive
behavior have the highest empathy level. The
positive relationship between empathy and
prosocial behavior may be due to the fact
that a sense of compassion or sympathy is
followed by a desire to remove the hardship
of another, as well as removing their own
emotional distress. However, the introduc-
tion of gender in analyzing the differences
between the roles in bullying and violent
and prosocial behavior, the scale of affective
Paediatrics Today 2013;9(1):91-101
empathy remained signicant only in men,
which suggests that this relationship depen-
ds signicantly on the gender of the respon-
dents. Also, as stated earlier, these groups of
respondent’s defenders have generally ne-
gative attitudes toward violence, and higher
social status (8). Specically, in this group,
social role predicts prosocial behavior, while
empathy is an important mediator variable.
The relationship between empathy
and forms of bullying
As regards forms of bullying from our re-
view of the literature, only a small number
of researchers examined the effects of em-
pathy on the forms of bullying. There are
three studies that have examined the type of
bullying and the level of empathy.
Woods et al. (25) examined the differen-
ces in the level of empathy based on direct
and indirect forms of bullying. The authors
assumed that in indirect bullying a person
who is violent possesses a high level of em-
pathy, to successfully recognize the emoti-
onal weaknesses of another individual and
the characteristics of the social situation.
In contrast, direct forms of bullying are
not strongly based on consideration of the
characteristics of individuals and situations,
so in this form of bullying a lower level of
empathy is expected. The results did not
support this hypothesis. Indirect forms of
bullying did not include developed emotional
skills in order to manipulate the individual in
comparison to direct forms. Furthermore, it
was found that children exposed to indirect
bullying have lower levels of empathy, affec-
tive empathy, compared to children exposed
to direct, physical bullying. The authors did
not offer further explanations for this. They
assumed that the lower empathy in children
exposed to bullying indirectly contributes to
repeated exposure to bullying in relation to
direct bullying behavior.
Kaukiainen et al. (2) found lower levels of
affective components of empathy for bulli-
es in indirect forms of bullying. The authors
assumed that the affective component of
empathy is a signicant negative predictor of
relational bullying, while in turn a signicant
predictor of direct bullying is the cognitive
component of empathy.
Steffgen and Associates (30) analyzed
data of conventional direct forms of bullying
and bullying through modern technology. In
both types of bullying it was found that vi-
olent children have lower levels of empathy
in relation to the remaining groups. Compa-
rison between the two types was not tested
and this is an important limitation in inter-
preting the results.
Methodological diculties in
investigating bullying and empathy
It is necessary to draw attention to the met-
hodological limitations of the research which
might have inuenced the obtained results.
Firstly, examination of bullying indicates a
sensitive topic of an intimate nature. Due to
their many unpleasant experiences, respon-
dents may feel ashamed and be untruthful
when giving self-reports. It is valid for the
situation of the operationalization of violen-
ce through peer nominations. It is interesting
that the correlation of self-assessment and
peer nominations are very low, in the range
of 0.2 to 0.4 (31). A problem of the ope-
rationalization of bullying is likely the result
of the complexity of the construct. Inconsi-
stency in the denition of violence does not
provide clear monitoring of the same phe-
nomenon in a particular place and time. In
addition to the problem of generalization,
which arises from different operationaliza-
tions of the term, the additional drawback
is the categorization of subjects depending
on their role in the bullying. Categorization is
mostly done on the basis of answers related
A. Dodaj et al. Empathy in bullying
to exposure to, and the frequency of diffe-
rent experiences. Based on this, the distincti-
on between existing groups is not completely
clear. Using a direct observation technique is
less biased and more objective. However, it is
difcult to perform a test on bullying in na-
tural conditions and laboratory research has
limited validity.
Finally, the retrospective method of rese-
arching testing bullying is also questionable.
Respondents may forget certain events that
occurred in the past. In addition, distorted
testimonies about experiences of bullying
may be due to psychological difculties expe-
rienced by people exposed to bullying.
Also, regarding empathy, methodological
difculties arise in dening the construct of
empathy, which might be due to the method
of measuring empathy. The most commonly
used method of measuring empathy is a me-
asure of self-assessment, which was previou-
sly said to be a biased indicator. Using some
physiological measures would give a clearer
picture of the construct, and the presumed
relationship. Using brain imaging techniques,
Moya-Albiol et al. (32) found that the bio-
logical mechanisms involved in empathy and
aggressive behavior are similar. Prefrontal,
temporal cortex, amygdala and other parts
of the limbic system, involved in aggressive
behavior, also participate in the development
of empathy. Specically, during activation
of the regions in the brain responsible for
empathy, the activation areas for aggressive
behavior were decreased. Therefore, in fu-
ture research more reliable and more valid
measures of empathy and violence should be
Interventions for reducing the
incidence of bullying
To reduce the risk factors and the negative
consequences of bullying it is necessary to
implement preventive measures, mainly at
the primary level of prevention. Primary
prevention of bullying is aimed at families
with children in the community regardless of
whether they are at risk for bullying or not.
In implementing prevention it is necessary to
do more than just understanding the natu-
re and consequences of bullying. Prevention
should be based upon teaching certain beha-
viors, ways of thinking, as well as changing
current maladjusted behavior.
However, recent research has shown that
successful intervention programs are focused
on social-emotional learning and positive be-
havioral interventions (33, 34). They are rela-
ted to the adoption of training, recognizing
and managing emotions, developing concern
for others, as well as the education of chil-
dren who are exposed to bullying and how to
be assertive in defense against bullying.
However, these interventions should not
only relate to the behavior of individuals. In-
terventions should include peers, in the deve-
lopment of teaching emotional skills. It sho-
uld be recalled that it is necessary for both
parents to be educated about the emotional
education of their children. It is crucial for
parents to be educated even when they have
pre-school children, since socialization skills
are acquired at that period. Specically, in the
primary stage of socialization, the child acqu-
ires the basic skills of communication and
language, learns social roles and adopts so-
cial behavior. At this stage, the child collects
knowledge and skills through play, imitation,
observation and interaction with parents and
other close family members. Raising chil-
dren at this stage serves the formation and
self-assembly of moral and social behavior.
If a child at this stage adopted norms and
rules of society that are not socially desira-
ble it would not function effectively in the
community, as the social skills adopted would
be ineffective in interacting with peers. The-
refore, we can say that education at school
age does not have the same effect on preven-
Paediatrics Today 2013;9(1):91-101
tion as that at an early preschool age, when
the skills have not been adopted and when
the education of parents helps a child to le-
arn effective socialization.
It should be stressed that in recent ye-
ars, a submissive approach to education has
been increasingly present. As a result of this
upbringing, prosocial behavior is not tau-
ght so in later years in school it reects the
connection between submissive parents at
an early age of the child and violence in the
school age.
In the mid 90-years, the Roots of Empathy
program was developed, which actually inclu-
des teaching empathy in interaction with peers
and parents. This is a program that starts at a
young age (35). Children learn to express the-
ir emotions and understand the emotions of
others using a variety of training techniques,
which are based on the individuals, but also
interactive teaching. Specically, the training
includes discussions and reections about the-
ir feelings, workshops related to the expressi-
on of their feelings through painting, musical
expression etc. The results of the evaluation
from 2009 reveal that children who attended
the program were 39% less socially aggressive
than the children of the same age who did not
attend program (35).
Future research
In future research, it is necessary to control
the mediator and moderator variables that
could affect the relationship between em-
pathy and bullying behavior. These are de-
mographic, as well as numerous social and
individual variables. In addition it would be
interesting to see, by longitudinal research,
the stability of the relationship between em-
pathy and bullying behavior.
Furthermore, some studies have shown
that only the affective component of em-
pathy plays a signicant role in reducing ag-
gressive behavior. It is assumed that children
reduce violent behavior in order to reduce
emotional stress, but future research has to
determine the reasons why offenders repe-
atedly commit violence against others, and
those that stop being violent toward others.
Qualitative methodology would provide si-
gnicant value to obtain such data.
Previous studies have examined the rela-
tionship of empathy and its role in bullying.
However, it is necessary to determine what
psychological effects respondents have from
different levels of empathy, as well as their
belonging to different categories. Specically,
are there some differences in the consequen-
ces of violence between individuals who are
exposed to violence and have a high level of
empathy and those who have low levels of
Finally, there is a lack of research to exa-
mine the differences between the various
forms of bullying and empathy, depending
on different roles in bullying. It is assumed
that different levels of empathy are present
in bullies of different types of bullying be-
havior, but also in those who are exposed to
bullying. If there are differences in the level
of empathy between the bullies using physi-
cal and verbal bullying, it could indicate that
the cause of the occurrence of such beha-
vior differs for different types of violence
and this would signicantly contribute to the
development of successful prevention pro-
grams. This implies that developing skills of
empathizing represents an important starting
point for planning interventions.
Exploration of the relationship of empathy
and bullying is relatively new, so the research
results are rather poor. However, this paper
aims to provide an overview of studies that
look at the relationship between empathy
and bullying, taking into account the diffe-
rent bullying roles and various forms of
A. Dodaj et al. Empathy in bullying
bullying. From a review of the research it can
be summarized that empathy plays an impor-
tant role in reducing violent behavior. The
higher the level of empathy, the lower the
tendency towards violent behavior. However,
the results in children who are bullies show
that the affective component of empathy
has an important role in reducing empathy in
relation to the cognitive component. As for
the people who are exposed to violence, the
research results are not entirely consistent. It
was found that defenders have a high level
of empathy toward victims, particularly the
affective component, which contributes to
prosocial behavior. Furthermore, the relati-
onship between empathy and violent beha-
vior does not vary signicantly in relation to
the type of violence. Studies have shown a
negative correlation between empathy and
various types of violence. However, it was
shown that certain components of empathy
play a more important role in direct and in-
direct forms of violence. Since the results of
this study differ, further research should be
Conict of interest: The authors declare they
have no conict of interest. The study has not
been sponsored by any external institution.
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Available from
A. Dodaj et al. Empathy in bullying
Citation: Dodaj A, Sesar K, Barisic M, Pandza M. The effect of empathy on involving in bullying beha-
vior. Paediatrics Today 2013;9(1):91-101.
... It was also found that victimization was negatively associated with cognitive empathy but not with affective empathy. A review of empirical stud-ies showed that lower empathy was generally associated with direct bullying behaviour but not necessarily with the use of electronic media (Dodaj et al., 2013). Perpetrators were also found to be more narcissistic (Ang et al., 2011) and had high levels of anger (Gradinger et al., 2012). ...
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Background Cyberbullying has recently attracted attention because of its increasing occurrence and serious consequences for victims. The purpose of the study was to examine the prevalence rates of cyberbullying and the association between cyberbullying and protective/risk factors (cognitive empathy, assertiveness, cooperation, pro-social behaviour, and social support) among Polish adolescents. Participants and procedure Participants (822 students, 448 girls and 374 boys, M = 12.97, SD = 1.02) completed a computer-based online questionnaire. Results The majority of respondents did not experience cyberbullying in the last six months, while a significant group still experienced cyberbullying regularly (28.1%). Engaging in cyberbullying appeared to be even less common: it was reported by 12.3% of respondents. Family and peer social support appeared to be the strongest protective factor against experiencing cyberbullying while assertiveness was a characteristic that makes a person more likely to engage in cyberbullying. Conclusions The results of our study can serve as guidance for preventive interventions against cyberbullying.
... (Salavera et al., 2021)Experiences with classmates regarding rewarding anxiety, sincerity, and aggression can reduce school bullying. (Dodaj, 2013) Studies show a negative correlation between empathy and various types of violence. So that teachers and friends can find out that the experience of bullying is very unpleasant, especially for the victim. ...
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Bullying is an unpleasant act that is still a problem in the school environment. To find out about school policy innovations in an effort to reduce the impact of bullying behavior, this will illustrate the relationship between bullying perpetrators and victims of bullying in SMA as well as school policy innovations to reduce the impact of bullying. This research was conducted in high school students of all levels with the number of respondents 1119 students in Indonesia. Descriptive approach with mixed methods. The sample / respondent was determined by purposive sampling technique. The data used a questionnaire and were analyzed with proportions and conducted FGD and interviews with teachers in SMA. The results of the study concluded that: 1) The value of r-count (Pearson Correlations) of the bullying was 0.186 r-table 0.062 and the r-count value for the bullying victim aspect was 0.139 r-table 0.062, meaning that the relationship between the two variables was positive and increased the bullying and victims of bullying, there will also be increased assistance and support from parents, teachers and friends; 2) The solution to reduce bullying effects must implement policies at the macro, meso and micro levels that work systemically and in synergy by creating creative and innovative programs. With the existence of an effective and innovative school policy, bullying cases that occur in schools can be minimized in terms of quality and quantity.
... Une récente étude (Poon, 2016) va dans le sens de ce profil d'intimidateur « en contrôle », vigilant quant à ses prises de décision et de risque, dénotant avec l'image d'un agresseur impulsif et socialement incompétent (Pontzer, 2010). Ces intimidateurs tendent à présenter un niveau d'empathie cognitive dans la moyenne (c'està-dire la capacité à anticiper et comprendre les émotions des autres), alors que leurs compétences en empathie affective (c'est-à-dire la capacité à ressentir les émotions des autres) sont réduites (Dodaj, 2013). Les seconds, les agresseurs/victimes, sont davantage décrits comme des jeunes présentant des difficultés d'autorégulation et d'encodage des situations sociales. ...
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RÉSUMÉ - Les modèles neurodéveloppementaux proposent que les prises de risque des adolescents résultent d’une impulsivité non régulée avec un déficit des fonctions exécutives, ou d’une impulsivité contrôlée avec recherche de sensations. Nous décrivons la théorie des systèmes doubles qui permet de mieux comprendre ces prises de risque et offre une grille de lecture des conduites de harcèlement entre pairs. Une réflexion en termes d’interventions auprès des adolescents et des institutions est proposée. // ABSTRACT - Neurodevelopmental models of risky behavior suggest that risk taking during adolescence results either from unregulated impulsivity, associated with deficits in executive functioning, either from a more controlled form of impulsivity, associated with sensation seeking and executive functioning skills. Here we describe the Dual Systems Model, whose contribution provide a better understanding of adolescents’ risk taking. This model also offers an additional comprehensive framework of school-bullying. Considerations related to interventions for adolescents and institutions are also discussed.
... The results of the research on the relationship between empathy and bullying are less consistent and may differ according to assessment methods, participants' gender or components of empathy. Recent literature reviews have shown that most studies found a negative correlation between cognitive and, in particular, affective empathy and overall bullying (22,23). Less is known about the association of empathy with different bystander roles. ...
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Objective - The aims of this study were to explore bystander roles based on the Participant Role Questionnaire (PRQ) and to determine the contribution of affective empathy and moral disengagement in explaining bystander roles in bullying. Methods - The sample included 325 elementary school students aged 11-16 years old. Students’ involvement in different bystander roles was assessed by subscales adapted from the PRQ, and their individual characteristics were measured by the Emotional Empathy Scale and the adapted version of the Moral Disengagement Scale. Results - The factor analysis revealed a five-factor structure of bystander role scales (assistant, reinforcer, defender, aggressive defender and outsider). The Outsider scale did not show satisfactory reliability. Boys had significantly higher scores on assisting the bully, whereas girls had significantly higher scores on defending the victim. Reinforcing the bully increased with students’ age, while defending the victim decreased with age. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that, after controlling for the effects of bystanders’ gender and age, emotional empathy had significant positive effects on defender and aggressive defender roles, and a significant negative effect on the reinforcer role. Moral disengagement was a significant positive predictor of assistant, reinforcer and aggressive defender roles, and a negative predictor of the defender role. Conclusion - Bystanders’ affective empathy and moral disengagement are important determinants of their behaviour in bullying situations. The validity of differentiating between the roles of assertive and aggressive defenders is confirmed. Key words: bullying, bystander roles, affective empathy, moral disengagement, adolescents.
... particularly the affective component, which contributes to pro-social behavior (Davis, 1994). Activities in this part of the program make use of those cognitive and affective empathy techniques which have been successfully used in education and training to increase positive interpersonal attitudes in different social contexts (Batson et al., 1997;Dodaj. Sesar, Barisic, & Pandza, 2012;Wo´jcik & Popiolek, 2014). ...
This article introduces ABBL, the anti-bullying program for the transition to middle school, which was designed as a free, feasible, and easily applicable solution for teachers who, for any reason, cannot take advantage of comprehensive anti-bullying school-based programs. The ABBL, based on the identification of the causal risk factors and mechanisms that lead to bullying, aims to influence the peer group in such a way that students do not reward antisocial behaviors and are, instead, able to create supportive class atmospheres and strong networks of personal attachments. The evaluation of the program effectiveness showed that it reduced bullying in the classroom. Indications for wider implementations are presented together with the ready-to-use ABBL anti-bullying program (see
... Dodaj et al. (13), discuss the relationships between empathy and bullying behaviour. This is a complex topic. ...
... Celem scenariuszy trzeciej części interwencji, w której zastosowane są techniki empatii kognitywnej (Gini, Albiero, Benelli, Altoe, 2007) oraz emocjonalnej (Dodaj, Sesar, 2013) jest uświadomienie uczniom mechanizmów, zakresu i konsekwencji wykluczania i prześladowania. Ćwiczenia pomagają w refl eksji nad własnym zachowaniem oraz jego bezpośrednimi skutkami. ...
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Początkowy okres szkoły gimnazjalnej stanowi duże wyzwanie dla uczniów i wychowawców klas. Odpowiednie pokierowanie grupą rówieśniczą w tym właśnie okresie jest niezwykle istotne, ale jak wynika z badań (Wójcik i in., 2015) nie wszyscy wychowawcy czują się pewnie w swojej roli. Wielu deklaruje brak odpowiedniego przygotowania oraz adekwatnych programów dostosowanych do realiów szkoły gimnazjalnej (Wójcik, Kozak, 2015). W artykule podejmujemy próbę wsparcia wychowawców oferując przegląd istotnych mechanizmów psychologicznych wpływających na zachowania uczniów w klasie. Zwracamy szczególną uwagę na ekologię grupy rówieśniczej, postrzegany klimat klasy oraz zachowania świadków przemocy szkolnej. Prezentujemy interwencję edukacyjną Bliżej, której celem jest zapobieganie agresji poprzez kreowanie pozytywnego klimatu klasy, w której przemoc nie jest akceptowana, a uczniowie sami potrafi ą jej zapobiegać.
... Podstawę teoretyczną tej części stanowią dwa modele: empatii kognitywnej (Gini, Albiero, Benelli i Altoe, 2007) oraz emocjonalnej (Dodaj i Sesar, 2013). Według tych teorii empatia stanowi wielowymiarowy konstrukt zawierający aspekty poznawcze i emocjonalne. ...
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Artykuł przedstawia opis projektu interwencji edukacyjnej mającej zapobiegać zjawisku wykluczenia rówieśniczego, które pojawia się w pierwszych tygodniach nauki w gimnazjum. Uzasadniono potrzebę stworzenia takiej interwencji na podstawie doniesień badawczych świadczących o nasilaniu się problemu wykluczenia rówieśniczego w polskich gimnazjach. Opisano założenia i etapy realizacji projektu. W ramach eksploracyjnego badania jakościowego przeprowadzonego z udziałem uczniów i nauczycieli gimnazjów potwierdzono istotny wpływ atmosfery w klasie na funkcjonowanie uczniów i nauczycieli w szkole i poza nią oraz określono cechy uczniów najbardziej narażonych na wykluczenie rówieśnicze. Stwierdzono też, że uczniowie, pomimo wiedzy o konsekwencjach zachowań wykluczających, bagatelizują skutki własnych zachowań tego typu. Opisano założenia programu i przedstawiono wyniki ewaluacji wstępnej, potwierdzającej skuteczność programu.
Studies on cyberbullying have revealed an inconsistent relationship between trait empathy and bystanders’ aggressive tendencies towards victims. We believe that these studies have overlooked the role of social exclusion. We infer that high‐severity social exclusion suppresses the negative relationship between trait empathy and bystanders’ aggressive tendencies. In Study 1, 226 participants read a news report concerning a singer's humiliation by netizens due to lack of talent. The results revealed that trait empathy predicted lower aggressive tendencies towards the singer for participants with fewer experiences of social exclusion. However, trait empathy was unrelated to aggressive tendencies for participants with more experiences of social exclusion. In Study 2, 146 participants were randomly assigned to a low‐severity or a high‐severity social exclusion condition and were required to recall their experiences of low‐ or high‐severity social exclusion, respectively. The results demonstrated that in the low‐severity condition, trait empathy was negatively associated with participants’ aggressive tendencies towards the singer and this relationship was mediated by state empathy. However, there was no evidence that the process was at work in the high‐severity condition. This study further presents implications and directions for future research.
Health education has been found effective in reducing the prevalence of risky pro-cancer behaviors among adolescents. For this reason, the Cephas Health Research Initiative Inc, Nigeria, embarked on the CHANCE (Campaign for Head and Neck Cancer Education) Program to reduce the prevalence of head and neck cancer (HNC) risk factors among Nigerian adolescents. Objectives: To explore the impact of HNC education on secondary school students’ knowledge of the etiologies and symptoms of head and neck cancer (HNC). To also explore the impact of HNC education on their willingness to educate their peers about HNC. Materials and Methods: An interventional study was conducted among grades 10 to 12 students (n = 103) in a public high school in Ilesa Town, Southwestern Nigeria. A well-structured questionnaire was used to obtain information from each participant before and after a session of HNC education. Collected data were cleaned, and analyzed using SPSS version 16 software. Results: The mean age (±SD) of respondents was 13.89 (±1.01) years, 72.8% were males, while 82.5% were Yorubas. There was a remarkable increase in the mean (±SD) knowledge scores of respondents’ knowledge of HNC etiology/risk factors (7.3% [±22.5%] versus 68.3% [±32.4%]) and symptoms (9.1% [±23.9%] versus 71.4% [±33.3%]) after the session of HNC education. There was a statistically significant increase in the number of respondents that were willing to educate their friends about HNC cancer after the education session (87.4% [pre-test] versus 88.3% [post-test], [X²: p < 0.001; df = 4]). Conclusion: Head and neck cancer education markedly improved the subjects’ knowledge of HNC. Adolescents can be made peer educators on HNC if made knowledgeable about the disease.
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Research on school-based violence and bullying suggests that males are more likely to be both perpetrators and victims of bullying. Because of this, until recently, the experiences of females have been somewhat overlooked. Evidence suggests, however, that definition and measurement issues may be at play; girls, for instance, are more likely than boys to experience indirect forms of bullying such as teasing. To what extent have the correlates and consequences of bullying victimization been misspecified due to an emphasis on direct forms of bullying, such as physical violence, which disproportionately affects boys? The authors use data from two waves of a longitudinal panel study of 1,222 youths in 15 schools across the United States to address this question by examining the correlates and consequences for both boys and girls of two forms of bullying. Findings suggest a number of important gender similarities and differences in indirect and direct bullying victimization.
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The aim of this study was to test the direction of effect in the relationship between bullying and empathy. The participants were 205 sixth‐grade students, randomly selected from urban and rural schools in Cyprus. A six‐month, two‐time‐point longitudinal design was used in which the participants completed the bullying subscale of the Revised Bullying and Victimisation Questionnaire (BVQ‐R) and the Basic Empathy Scale. The results of this study showed that bullying at Time 1 negatively predicted the affective component of empathy at Time 2. Moreover, children’s affective empathy at Time 1 negatively predicted bullying at Time 2. The results of this study indicate towards a reciprocal model of understanding the relationship between bullying and empathy.
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The present study investigated the role of theory of mind (ToM) skills in three forms of involvement in bullying: ringleader bullying, defending the victim(s), and victimization. Individual (affective empathy) and interpersonal variables (social preference and perceived popularity) were assumed to moderate the associations between ToM and the ways of being involved in bullying. Moderation effects by gender were also explored. Participants were 211 primary school pupils (average age = 10 years and 2 months, SD = 6 months), who took part in a ToM interview and filled in self- and peer-report questionnaires on empathy, social status, and involvement in bullying. ToM skills were positively linked to defending, and among boys this association was further strengthened by social preference. Practical implications include the need to focus on both peer relationships (i.e., status) and emotional characteristics (i.e., empathy) when trying to motivate youth with good cognitive skills to actively defend their victimized classmates.
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Objective -The aim of the present study was to assess if girls and boys who are classified as bullies, victims, bully/victims and neutral differ in Eysenck's personality dimensions. Subjects and method -Three hundred and seventy-two chil-dren, age range 10 to 14 years (mean age 12.3±1.6 years) com-pleted a School Relationship Questionnaire (SRQ) and the Junior Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ Junior). To examine whether there are differences in the studied dimensions of per-sonality with regard to their roles in bullying behavior and the gender of the respondents, we used one–way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with Tukey HSD Post Hoc analysis. Results -Based on the results of the SRQ, 57% of children were classified as involved in bullying behavior, either as bullies (13%), victims (16%) or bullies/victims (28%), while 41% were neutral. Girls showed significantly higher levels of neuroticism (F (1.325) = 9.983, p<0.001) and dissimulation tendency (F(1.331) = 7.270, p<0.05) than boys, while boys showed significantly higher le-vels of psychoticism (F(1.331) = 37.632, p<0.001). Bullies and bully/victims had higher levels of extraversion (F(3.323) = 3.105, p <0.05) while victims and bully/victims were found to have higher levels of neuroticism (F (3.325) = 20.390, p<0.001) com-pared to neutral. Significantly higher levels of psychoticism (F (3.331) = 13.929, p<0.001) were found for bully/victims in re-lation to bullies, victims and neutrals. Victims had significantly higher levels of psychoticism in relation to neutral, and bullies in relation to victims and neutrals. Significantly higher levels of affinity towards dissimulation (F (3.331) = 23.916, p<0.001) were found for neutrals in relation to bullies and bully/victims, and for victims in relation to bullies and bully/victims. Conclusion -Differences in Eysenck's personality dimensions were found with regard to gender and role in bullying behavior.
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Relationships between social intelligence, empathy, and three types of aggressive behavior were studied. Peer-estimation techniques were used to measure all major variables. Altogether, 526 Finnish schoolchildren from three age groups (10, 12, and 14 years old) participated in the study. As was hypothesized, indirect aggression correlated positively and significantly with social intelligence in every age group studied. Physical and verbal forms of aggression had almost zero correlation to social intelligence. Empathy correlated negatively and significantly with every type of aggression except indirect aggression in 12-year-old children. The major findings are in line with the developmental theory by Björkqvist et al. [1992. Aggr Behav 18:117–127] suggesting that indirect aggression requires more social intelligence than direct forms of aggression. Aggr. Behav. 25:81–89, 1999. © 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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Two groups of male adolescents, incarcerated young offenders (N = 64, mean age = 16.3 years) and a comparison group of community youth (N = 60; mean age = 16.6 years), were administered the Empathy Continuum (measuring cognitive-affective responses to persons in emotionally evocative videotaped vignettes) and questionnaire measures of empathy, emotional responsiveness, guilt, shame, and antisocial attitudes and behaviors. Although both groups endorsed general statements of empathy, young offenders responded with empathy less often to particular persons in particular situations, and reasoned regarding their empathic responses in more self-referencing ways. They also described their emotional responses to stimulus persons as less intense. In addition to the expected group differences, responsive empathy was a stronger predictor of delinquency than self-reported antisocial behavior, and correctly classified 69 percent of young offenders and comparison youths. Although guilt was consistently related to lower self-reported antisocial attitudes and behaviors, guilt (and shame) only weakly differentiated the two groups, limiting the usefulness of the TOSCA-A as a predictor of delinquency.
Aggression, bullying and violence in children and youth are prevalent in Canada (18%) and internationally. The authors evaluated the effectiveness of Roots of Empathy (ROE), a school-based mental health promotion and violence prevention program for children that has been widely implemented but rarely evaluated. Eight school divisions were randomly assigned to either a treatment group that received ROE in 2002-2003 (445 students) or a wait-list control group (315 students). These were compared on three child mental health outcomes (physical aggression, indirect aggression and pro-social behaviour), rated by teachers and students (self-rated). The three wait-list school divisions received ROE in 2003-2004 (new cohort of 265 students) and were compared with the control group from 2002-2003 on the three outcomes, for replication purposes. For both comparisons, the authors report multi-level modelling analyses regarding (1) immediate effects after ROE completion at the end of the school year (pretest to post-test) and (2) long-term ROE effects up to three years after post-test. ROE had replicated, beneficial effects on all teacher-rated outcomes, which were generally maintained or further improved across follow-up. However, ROE had almost no statistically significant or replicated effects on student-rated outcomes. This is the first evaluation to suggest that ROE appears effective when implemented on a large scale under real-world delivery conditions.
This book focuses on a recent, important psychological theory of autism, the 'theory of mind' hypothesis. This claims that children with autism fail to develop the ability to think about mental states in the normal way, and thus fail to understand behaviour in terms of mental states. In current terminology, they are impaired in the development of a 'theory of mind.' This psychological deficit is held to underlie some of the key features of the syndrome: the abnormalities in social and communication development. The editors have collected together both the evidence and the controversies surrounding the theory, and present these as a valuable debate about the nature of what is widely recognized as the most severe childhood psychiatric disorder. The chapters are written by scholars from a variety of disciplines (developmental psychology, neuropsychology, philosophy, psycholinguistics, primatology, child psychology, and psychoanalysis). The book stands as an illustration of the mutual influence of studies of the mind from the perspective of normality and pathology. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This book is "the initial attempt to organize a representative cross-section of serious methods of investigating social mechanisms." Includes: Part I. Social phenomena in selected populations. 1. Population behavior of bacteria. 2. Social origins and processes among plants. 3. Human populations. Part II. Social phenomena in infrahuman societies. 4. Insect societies, O. E. Plath. 5. Bird societies, Herbert Friedmann. 6. The behavior of mammalian herds and packs, Friedrich Alverdes. Part III. Historical sequences of human social phenomena. 7. Social history of the negro, Melville J. Herskovits. 8. Social history of the red man, Clark Wissler. 9. Social history of the white man. 10. Social history of the yellow man, Edwin Deeks Harvey. Part IV. Analyses of recurring patterns in social phenomena. 11. Language, Erwin A. Esper. 12. Magic and cognate phenomena: an hypothesis, Raymond Royce Willoughby. 13. Material culture, Clark Wissler. Part V. Analyses of some correlates of social phenomena. 14. The physical environment, Victor E. Shelford. 15. Age in human society, Walter R. Miles. 16. Sex in social psychology, Catharine Cox Miles. 16. Sex in social psychology, Catharine Cox Miles. 17. Attitudes, Gordon W. Allport. 18. Social maladjustments: adaptive regression, F. L. Wells. Part VI. Experimental constructions of social phenomena. 19. Relatively simple animal aggregations, W. C. Allee. 20. Social behavior of birds, Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe. 21. Social behavior in infrahuman primates, Robert M. Yerkes and Ada W. Yerkes. 22. The influence of social situations upon the behavior of children, Lois Barclay Murphy and Gardner Murphy. Name and subject index. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This study investigated the relationships between affective and cognitive empathy, social preference and perceived popularity, and involvement in bullying situations by bullying others or defending the victimized children. The participants were 266 primary and 195 secondary school students. Affective and cognitive empathy, as well as the status variables, had some significant main effects on involvement in bullying. In addition, several interaction effects emerged. For instance, the positive association between affective empathy and defending behavior was stronger among boys who had a high status (i.e., were highly preferred) in the group. The results highlight the importance of studying child-by-environment models, which take into account both child characteristics and interpersonal variables in predicting social adjustment.