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Keywords:

  • bullying;
  • prosocial behavior;
  • empathy;
  • participant role approach;
  • structural equation modeling

Abstract

Through structural equation modeling, this study tested a path of relations in which different levels of empathic responsiveness were posited to be differently associated to bullying and defending behavior. Three hundred and eighteen Italian adolescents (142 girls and 176 boys; mean age = 13.2 years) completed the Davis's Interpersonal Reactivity Index [Davis, 1983] for empathy and the Participant role scales [Salmivalli et al., 1996] for bullying and defending behavior. The results revealed that the model fitted the data adequately, but only in the case of boys. As hypothesized, low levels of empathic responsiveness were associated to students' involvement in bullying others. In contrast, empathy was positively associated with actively helping victimized schoolmates. However, the estimates algorithm did not reach convergence with girls' data. The current findings confirm and extend the literature on the relation between empathy, prosociality and aggressive behavior. Educational implications are also discussed. Aggr. Behav. 33:467–476, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.