Boys will be boys? Empathy and the relationship between gender and aggression.

T.A. Bretag, Graham Tyson, D.L. Szarkowicz

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


Why are boys more aggressive than girls? Could it be that boys lack the ability to empathise with others? The aim of this study was to investigate the significance of dispositional empathy (perspective taking, fantasy, empathic concern, and personal distress) as a mediator in the effect of gender on aggression (physical, and verbal aggression, anger and hostility) in adolescents. Cross sectional data was gathered via self-report method from 108 secondary students in Alice Springs. Male participants showed consistently lower scores in all four measured empathy dimensions, in the presence of consistently higher scores in all four measured components of aggression. Gender differences were the greatest in the areas of empathic concern and physical aggression, reaching statistical significance, which inferred substantial linking between gender, aggression and empathy. Regression analysis demonstrated empathic concern to be a significant partial mediator between gender and physical aggression. In light of this finding, interventions fostering dispositional empathic concern are recommended to improve adolescents' social interactions, with potential positive side effects such as increased self-esteem, engagement with the community, increased secondary school retention rates and enhanced future employment opportunities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication40th APS Annual Conference
Subtitle of host publicationPast reflections, future directions
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherAPS Press
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)0909881278
Publication statusPublished - 2005
EventAustralian Psychological Society (APS) Annual Conference - Melbourne, Australia, Australia
Duration: 29 Sept 200502 Oct 2005


ConferenceAustralian Psychological Society (APS) Annual Conference


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