Increase In Bullying Attributed To Decline In Empathy

Most people agree that we need to work harder to reduce bullying in schools, online, in our homes and in our communities.  225x186-images-stories-349x288-images-stories-iStock_000011535585LargeBut what issues are behind the bully behaviors? Researchers are looking at a number of theories, from media exposure to narcissistic personality traits to impulse problems. Some people believe that a lack of empathy may contribute to behaviors like bullying.

Recent research from the University of Michigan found that college students today are less empathetic than college students of the past 30 years. An article in Science Daily says: “We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000,” said Sara Konrath, a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research. “College kids today are about 40% lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standard tests of this personality trait…”

Compared to their counterparts of the late 1970s, the study found, college students today are less likely to agree with statements such as “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective” and “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.” In a related but separate analysis, Konrath found that nationally representative samples of Americans see changes in other people’s kindness and helpfulness over a similar time period.

“Many people see the current group of college students — sometimes called ‘Generation Me’ — as one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history,” said Konrath, who is also affiliated with the University of Rochester Department of Psychiatry.

For more information on the college student empathy study and to listen to a related podcast, go to


 Want to see how your empathy compares to college students’ empathy?


 Want to delve into this topic? Try some of these articles:

How Not to Raise a Bully: The Early Roots of Empathy, from Time magazine,8599,1982190,00.html

Gossip Girls and Boys get Lessons in Empathy, from the New York Times

The Empathy Gap: Why Some Can’t See Bully Victims’ Pain, from Live Science

Machiavellian kids? Bullies, empathy, and moral reasoning, from Parenting Science


 Can we increase our empathy or help our children become empathetic? Check out these eHow articles for ideas:

Ways to increase empathy

How to raise an empathetic child

Children’s games that increase empathy


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