The Role of Empathy and Appreciation of Differences in Adolescents' Defending Behaviors

Brigid Raughley Wolfgang, Fordham University


This study explored the contributing factors to defending behaviors which are characterized as the actions of those who stand up for peers who are victims of peer aggression. These factors were cognitive empathy, affective empathy, appreciation of differences, peer group status, gender and age. The factors were examined in the context of a path model among adolescents aged 12 to 14. The results of this study supported the proposed model and it was determined to be a good fit to the data. Five out of seven hypotheses were supported. Affective empathy was found to mediate the relationship between cognitive empathy and defender status such that greater affective empathy indicated greater defender status. Cognitive empathy alone was not found to predict defender status. Peer group status mediated the relationship between affective empathy and defending behaviors such that higher peer group status indicated greater likelihood of defender status. Appreciation of differences did not mediate the relationship between affective empathy nor predict defender status alone. Age was significant in moderating the relationship between appreciation of differences and defender status such that it was a greater predictor for younger students than older ones. Gender did not moderate the relationship between peer group status and defending behaviors. Post hoc analyses indicated that the model was a better fit for males than females. Conclusions inform best practices for interventions to promote defending behaviors and the development of factors that contribute to defending behaviors.

Subject Area

Education|Educational psychology|Counseling Psychology|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Wolfgang, Brigid Raughley, "The Role of Empathy and Appreciation of Differences in Adolescents' Defending Behaviors" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10281596.