The moderating role of empathic concern and perspective taking on the relationship between moral disengagement and aggression

Kay Bussey*, Catherine Quinn, Jane Dobson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    A significant amount of research shows that adolescents who obfuscate their personal responsibility for aggressive behavior by employing justificatory strategies in the form of moral disengagement processes engage in more aggression. This questionnaire-based study examined the moderating roles of empathic concern and perspective taking in attenuating the association between moral disengagement practices and overt aggression. Participants were 1,152 mainly white Australian adolescents (723 boys) in Grades 7–11 (12.49–16.40 years of age). Consistent with previous research, the findings from this study revealed that moral disengagement proneness was associated with higher levels of selfreported overt aggression. Further, the empathy-related variables of empathic concern and perspective taking each moderated the link between moral disengagement proneness and aggression. At higher levels of empathic concern and perspective taking, the association between moral disengagement proneness and aggression was weaker than at lower levels of each of the empathy-related variables. These results have implications for intervention programs to reduce peer aggression in schools.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)10-29
    Number of pages20
    JournalMerrill-Palmer Quarterly
    Volume61
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015

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