Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 183–196 | Cite as

Empathy and Bullying: Exploring the Influence of Callous-Unemotional Traits

Original Article

Abstract

Although knowing and feeling the emotions of other people might result in less bullying, we argue that not caring about these feelings will also be important. That is, what good is empathy, if one does not care about the feelings or values of others? We examined self-reports of callous-unemotional traits (CU: Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits), bullying, and empathy in 201 children (ages 11–12 years). Results show children high on CU to be lowest in affective empathy and highest in direct bullying. While all subscales of the ICU were related to affective empathy, only the uncaring subscale was uniquely related to cognitive empathy. Empathy did not explain differences in bullying when taking into account CU traits. Therefore, failing to care about others is more important than empathy for explaining the direct and indirect bullying these children take part in. Implications for targeting different forms of empathy in treatment are considered.

Keywords

Callous-unemotional traits Empathy Bullying 

References

  1. 1.
    Olweus D (1993) Bullying at school: what we know and what we can do. Blackwell Publishing, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Byrne B (1995) Coping with bullying in schools. Cassell Education, LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Guerin S, Hennessy E (2002) Aggression and bullying. Blackwell Publishing Co, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Crick NR, Grotpeter JK (1995) Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment. Child Dev 66:710–722PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Björkqvist K, Österman K, Kaukiainen A (1992) The development of direct and indirect aggressive strategies in males and females. In: Björkqvist K, Niemelä P (eds) Of mice and women: aspects of female aggression. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 51–64Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Viding E, Simmonds E, Petrides KV, Frederickson N (2009) The contribution of callous-unemotional traits and conduct problems to bullying in early adolescence. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 50:471–481PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Wolke D, Woods S, Bloomfield L, Karstadt L (2000) The association between direct and relational bullying and behaviour problems among primary school children. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 41:989–1002PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Jolliffe D, Farrington DP (2006) Examining the relationship between low empathy and bullying. Aggress Behav 32:540–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Dodge KA, Rabiner DL (2004) Returning to roots: on social information processing and moral development. Child Dev 75:1003–1008PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Camodeca M, Goossens FA, Schuengel C, Terwogt MM (2003) Links between social information processing in middle childhood and involvement in bullying. Aggress Behav 29:116–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Arsenio WF, Lemerise EA (2004) Aggression and moral development: Integrating social information processing and moral domain models. Child Dev 75:987–1002PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bushman BJ, Baumeister RF (1998) Threatened egotism, narcissism, self-esteem, and direct and displaced aggression: does self-love or self-hate lead to violence? J Pers Soc Psychol 75:219–229PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Sutton J, Smith PK, Swettenham J (1999) Bullying and ‘theory of mind’: a critique of the ‘social skills deficit’ view of anti-social behaviour. Soc Dev 8:117–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Barlow A, Qualter P, Stylianou MS (2010) Relationships between machiavellianism, emotional intelligence and theory of mind in children. Pers Individ Dif 48:78–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Dautanhahn K, Woods S, Kaouri C (2007) Bullying behaviour, empathy and imitation: an attempted synthesis. In: Nehaniv CL, Dautenhahn K (eds) Imitation and social learning in robots, humans and animals: behavioural, social and communicative dimensions. University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kaukiainen A, Björkqvist K, Lagerspetz KMJ, Österman K, Salmivalli C et al (1999) The relationships between social intelligence, empathy, and three types of aggression. Aggress Behav 25:81–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Björkqvist K, Österman K, Kaukiainen A (2000) Social intelligence- empathy = aggression? Aggress Violent Behav 5:191–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Dadds MR, Hawes DJ, Frost AD, Vassallo S, Bunn P et al (2009) Learning to ‘talk the talk: the relationship of psychopathic traits to deficits in empathy across childhood. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 50:599–606PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Jolliffe D, Farrington DP (2007) The relationship between low empathy and self-reported offending. Leg Criminol Psychol 12:265–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Anastassiou-Hadjicharalambous X, Warden D (2008) Cognitive and affective perspective-taking in conduct-disordered children high and low on callous-unemotional traits. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health 2:16–26PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Davis MH (1980) A multidimensional approach to individual differences in empathy. JSAS Catalog Selec Docum Psychol 10:85–104Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gini G, Albiero P, Benelli B, Altoè G (2007) Does empathy predict adolescents’ bullying and defending behavior? Aggress Behav 33:467–476PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Dadds MR, Hunter K, Hawes DJ, Frost ADJ, Vassallo S et al (2008) A measure of cognitive and affective empathy in children using parent ratings. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 39:111–122PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Frick PJ, White SF (2008) The importance of callous-unemotional traits for developmental models of aggressive and antisocial behavior. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 49:359–375PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Edens JF, Campbell JS, Weir JM (2007) Youth psychopathy and criminal recidivism: a meta-analysis of the psychopathy checklist measures. Law Hum Behav 31:53–75PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kimonis ER, Frick PJ, Fazekas H, Loney BR (2006) Psychopathy, aggression, and the processing of emotional stimuli in non-referred children. Behav Sci Law 24:21–37PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Loney BR, Frick PJ, Clements CB, Ellis ML, Kerlin K (2003) Callous-unemotional traits, impulsivity, and emotional processing in antisocial adolescents. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 32:139–152Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Dadds MR, Perry Y, Hawes DJ, Merz S, Riddell A et al (2006) Attention to the eyes and fear-recognition deficits in child psychopathy. Br J Psychiatry 189:280–281PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Muñoz LC (2009) Callous-unemotional traits are related to combined deficits in recognizing afraid faces and body poses. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 48:554–562PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Blair RJR (1999) Responsiveness to distress cues in the child with psychopathic tendencies. Pers Individ Dif 27:135–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Fanti KA, Frick PJ, Georgiou S (2009) Linking callous-unemotional traits to instrumental and non-instrumental forms of aggression. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 31:285–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Dadds MR, El Masry Y, Wimalaweera S, Guastella A (2008) Reduced eye gaze explains “fear blindness” in childhood psychopathic traits. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 47:455–463PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Frick PJ (2004) The Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits. The University of New OrleansGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Kimonis ER, Frick PJ, Skeem JL, Marsee MA, Cruise K et al (2008) Assessing callous-unemotional traits in adolescent offenders: validation of the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits. J Int Assoc Psychiatry Law 31:241–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Morrissey-Kane E, Prinz RJ (1999) Engagement in child and adolescent treatment: the role of parental cognitions and attributions. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev 2:183–198PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Tattum DP (1993) Understanding and managing bullying. Heinemann Educational Publishers, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Whitney I, Smith PK (1993) A survey of the nature and extent of bullying in junior/middle and secondary schools. Educ Res 35:3–25Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Lagerspetz KMJ, Björkqvist K, Berts M, King E (1982) Group aggression among school children in three schools. Scand J Psychol 23:42–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Olweus D (1978) Aggression in the schools: bullies and whipping boys. John Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Essau CA, Sasagawa S, Frick PJ (2006) Callous-unemotional traits in a community sample of adolescents. Assessment 13:454–469PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Olweus D (1996) The revised Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire. Bergen, Norway: Research Center for Health Promotion (HEMIL Center), University of BergenGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Kyriakides L, Kaloyirou C, Lindsay G (2006) An analysis of the Revised Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire using the Rasch measurement model. Br J Educ Psychol 76:781–801PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Frick PJ, Hare RD (2001) The antisocial process screening device. Multi-Health Systems, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Muñoz LC, Powell R, Harris K (2008) Callous-unemotional traits are related to poor ability in correctly labeling body poses that communicate fear. Poster presented at the International Conference on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, Roehampton University, UKGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Caldwell MF, Skeem J, Salekin RT, Van Rybroek GJ (2006) Treatment response of adolescent offenders with psychopathy features: a 2-year follow-up. Crim Justice Behav 33:571–596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Pellegrini A, Bartini M (2001) Dominance in early adolescent boys: affiliative and aggressive dimensions and possible functions. Merrill Palmer Q 47:142–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luna C. Muñoz
    • 1
  • Pamela Qualter
    • 1
  • Gemma Padgett
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of Central LancashirePrestonUK

Personalised recommendations