Empathy, Exploitation, and Adolescent Bullying Perpetration: a Longitudinal Social-Ecological Investigation
Empathy has been often negatively associated with bullying perpetration, whereas tendencies to be exploitative have been relatively understudied with bullying. Empathic concern and exploitation may also indirectly link distal social-ecological factors to bullying perpetration. Therefore, the associations among personality (i.e., empathic concern, exploitation), self-perceived social-ecological factors (school bonding, social resources), and bullying perpetration were examined in a sample of 531 adolescents across three years of high school in Ontario, Canada (i.e., Grades 9 to 11; mean age 14.96 [SD = 0.37] in Grade 9). As expected, exploitation had concurrent and longitudinal associations with bullying, but unexpectedly empathic concern only had concurrent associations and no longitudinal associations with bullying. Also as expected, exploitation indirectly linked self-perceived social resources to bullying perpetration, but unexpectedly there were no indirect effects with empathic concern. Findings suggest a complex social ecology whereby a lack of empathic concern may remain an important correlate of bullying within each year of high school, whereas exploitative tendencies may be an important predictor of bullying across the high school years, including to strategically leverage self-perceived social resources.
KeywordsBullying Adolescents Exploitation Empathic concern Social-ecology
This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [grant numbers 833-2004-1019, 435-2016-1251], Ontario Mental Health Foundation [grant number PA-13-303], and Canadian Institutes of Health Research [grant numbers 201009MOP-232,632-CHI-CECA-136591, 201603PJT-365,626-PJT-CECA-136591].
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Ann H. Farrell, Anthony A. Volk, and Tracy Vaillancourt declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Ethical Approval and Experiment Participants
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants’ parents included in the study and informed assent was obtained from all individual adolescent participants included in the study.
- Adachi, P., & Willoughby, T. (2015). Interpreting effect sizes when controlling for stability effects in longitudinal autoregressive models: Implications for psychological science. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12(1), 116–128. https://doi.org/10.1080/17405629.2014.963549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Barboza, G. E., Schiamberg, L. B., Oehmke, J., Korzeniewski, S. J., Post, L. A., & Heraux, C. G. (2009). Individual characteristics and the multiple contexts of adolescent bullying: An ecological perspective. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38(1), 101–121. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-008-9271-1.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. In R. M. Lerner, & W. Damon (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (6th ed.): Vol 1, Theoretical models of human development (pp. 793–828). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136–162). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
- Cook, E. T., Greenberg, M. T., & Kusche, C. A. (1995). People In My Life: Attachment relationships in middle childhood. Paper presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Indianapolis, IN, March.Google Scholar
- Davis, M. H. (1980). A multidimensional approach to individual differences in empathy. JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 10, 85.Google Scholar
- Frick, P. J., & White, S. F. (2008). Research review: The importance of callous-unemotional traits for developmental models of aggressive and antisocial behavior. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(4), 359–375. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01862.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kline, R. B. (2016). Principles and practice of structural equational modeling (4th ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Laninga-Wijnen, L., Harakeh, Z., Garandeau, C. F., Dijkstra, J. K., Veenstra, R., & Vollebergh, W. A. (2019). Classroom popularity hierarchy predicts prosocial and aggressive popularity norms across the school year. Child Development, 90, 637–653. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- McCrae, R. R., Costa Jr., P. T., Ostendorf, F., Angleitner, A., Hřebíčková, M., Avia, M. D., et al. (2000). Nature over nurture: Temperament, personality, and life span development. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(1), 173–186. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.199.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- McNeish, D. M. (2014). Analyzing clustered data with OLS regression: The effect of a hierarchical data structure. Multiple Linear Regression Viewpoints, 40, 11–16.Google Scholar
- Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998-2017). Mplus User's Guide (8th ed.). Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
- Olthof, T., Goossens, F. A., Vermande, M. M., Aleva, E. A., & van der Meulen, M. (2011). Bullying as strategic behavior: Relations with desired and acquired dominance in the peer group. Journal of School Psychology, 49(3), 339–359. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2011.03.003.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Olweus, D. (1996). Bullying at school: Knowledge base and an effective intervention program. In C. F. Ferris & T. Grisso (Eds.), Understanding aggressive behaviour in children. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (vol. 794, pp. 265–276). New York, NY: New York Academy of Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.1996.tb32527.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Paciello, M., Fida, R., Cerniglia, L., Tramontano, C., & Cole, E. (2013). High cost helping scenario: The role of empathy, prosocial reasoning and moral disengagement on helping behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(1), 3–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.11.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Reijntjes, A., Vermande, M., Thomaes, S., Goossens, F., Olthof, T., Aleva, L., & Van derMeulen, M. (2016). Narcissism, bullying, and social dominance in youth: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 44(1), 63–74. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802015-9974-1.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Sentse, M., Veenstra, R., Kiuru, N., & Salmivalli, C. (2015). A longitudinal multilevel study of individual characteristics and classroom norms in explaining bullying behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43(5), 943–955. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-014-9949-7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Sullivan, B. F., & Geaslin, D. L. (2001). The role of narcissism, self-esteem, and irrational beliefs in predicting aggression. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 16, 53–68.Google Scholar
- Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2013). Using multivariate statistics (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
- Vaillancourt, T., Brittain, H., Bennett, L., Arnocky, S., McDougall, P., Hymel, S., et al. (2010a). Places to avoid: Population-based study of student reports of unsafe and high bullying areas at school. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 25(1), 40–54. https://doi.org/10.1177/0829573509358686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Vaillancourt, T., McDougall, P., Hymel, S., & Sunderani, S. (2010b). Respect or fear? The relationship between power and bullying behavior. In S. R. Jimerson, S. M. Swearer, & D. L. Espelage (Eds.), The handbook of bullying in schools: An international perspective (pp. 211–222). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Vaillancourt, T., Brittain, H. L., McDougall, P., & Duku, E. (2013). Longitudinal links between childhood peer victimization, internalizing and externalizing problems, and academic functioning: Developmental cascades. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41(8), 1203–1215. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-013-9781-5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- van Geel, M., Toprak, F., Goemans, A., Zwaanswijk, W., & Vedder, P. (2017). Are youth psychopathic traits related to bullying? Meta-analyses on callous-unemotional traits, narcissism, and impulsivity. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 48(5), 768–777. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-016-0701-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Voisin, D. R., Patel, S., Hong, J. S., Takahashi, L., & Gaylord-Harden, N. (2016). Behavioral health correlates of exposure to community violence among African-American adolescents in Chicago. Children and Youth Services Review, 69, 97–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.08.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Washburn, J. J., McMahon, S. D., King, C. A., Reinecke, M. A., & Silver, C. (2004). Narcissistic features in young adolescents: Relations to aggression and internalizing symptoms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33(3), 247–260. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JOYO.0000025323.94929.d9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Yeager, D. S., Fong, C. J., Lee, H. Y., & Espelage, D. L. (2015). Declines in efficacy of anti- bullying programs among older adolescents: Theory and a three-level meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 37, 36–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2014.11.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar