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01-11-2014 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 11/2014

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 11/2014

Unique and Interactive Effects of Empathy, Family, and School Factors on Early Adolescents’ Aggression

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 11/2014
Milena Batanova, Alexandra Loukas


Although research indicates that empathy inhibits youth aggression, little is known about the prospective associations between different components of empathy and aggression, as well as whether family and school factors moderate the aforementioned associations in early adolescents. Based on prior research, the current study examined whether empathic concern and perspective taking would contribute to subsequent overt and relational aggression over a 1-year period in middle school. Guided by the social development model, we also examined if positive family relations and school connectedness would differentially moderate the associations between both components of empathy and aggression. Participants were 481 10- to 14-year old students (54 % female; 78 % European American) who completed the first wave of a survey in 6th and 7th grades. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that only for girls did lower levels of empathic concern, not perspective taking, contribute to increases in subsequent overt, not relational, aggression. Although neither positive family relations nor school connectedness played protective roles for girls, results indicated that boys’ reports of positive family relations buffered the negative impact of low empathic concern on both forms of aggression 1 year later. Over and above the two components of empathy, school connectedness also contributed to a decline in boys’ subsequent overt aggression. Recommendations are made to foster family and school relationships among boys, as well as to more heavily consider the role of emotion processes in the study and prevention of early adolescents’ aggression.

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