PsycholOgicaIReporlc, 1992, 70, 1119-1122.

63 Psychological Reports 1932


Summary.-It was hypothesized that school students very high on empathy would have better self-esteem, behave in a healthier manner, and also have more positive attitudes towards health behaviour than the least empathetic ones. Students were from a comprehensive school, from gymnasium, and from vocational school (Ns = 4268, 2205 girls, 2063 boys, aged 14 to 20 yr.). A modified Mehrabian and Epstein Empathy Scale and the Sensitivity scale were given. The Battle Self-esteem Scale, Form A D measured self-esteem and the Osborn and Harris Scale assertiveness. As a narcissism measure we used the modified Emmons Narcissism Scale. Scores were divided into quartiles. The most empathetic students were compared with the least empathetic ones; the former were more assertive, less narcissistic, less self-focussed, and more sensitive. They had more positive attitudes towards health behaviour: they smoked less and used less alcohol than the least empathetic ones. A holistic empathetic trend is seen in thoughts and in behaviour, which works against narcissism. These results confirm that humans need education on empathy in schools to promote mental growth and health behaviour.

Empathy is conceived as a holistic process of the human organism which has a positive influence on the quality of life. Empathy is viewed as combining physiological, kinaesthetic, affective and cognitive as well as motivational factors (Kalliopuska, 1983; Kalliopuska, Keva, Koskelainen, Ruokonen, & Tiitinen, 1985). An empathetic individual has flexible control of the ego, hence he can adapt to circumstances and find in different situations various solutions. Higher empathy also is associated with self-control wherein role-taking operates as one evaluative factor. To be successful, empathy requires development of personal self-esteem. Sound self-esteem means, among others, approving of, respecting, and being content with oneself (Battle, 1981). Assertiveness and the capacity of defending oneself and demanding one's rights also accompanies sound self-esteem. Being content with oneself is manifest in a certain kind of self-conceit, a sound narcissism, although excessive narcissism is a sign of self-centeredness or personality disorder. An empathetic person has more positive attitudes, and behaves according to inner moral standards associated with high empathy (Kalliopuska, 1984, 1986, 1990). We hypothesized that the most highly empathetic school students would have better self-esteem and also more positive attitude towards health behaviour than students who scored low on empathy. ' ~ d d r e s scorrespondence to M. Kalliopuska, Virmajuurentie 1 A 1, 01300 Vantaa, Finland



METHOD The students (N = 4268) from higher levels of a comprehensive school, a gymnasium, and a vocational school took part in rhe study by filling out a questionnaire and enclosing it in a separate envelope before giving it to the special teacher (2205 girls, 2063 boys, ages 14 to 20 years). The methods included the modified Mehrabian and Epstein Empathy Scale of 33 items (1972), the Sensitivity scale (6 items), the Battle Self-esteem Scale, Form AD of 40 items (1981), the modified Rosenberg Self-regard scale of 10 items (Rosenberg, 1979), two factors of the original Coopersmith scale (1967) w h c h measure self-assurance and lack of self-esteem. For measuring assertiveness the Self-assertiveness Scale of 30 items designed by Osborn and Harris (1978) was given and as a narcissism measure the modified Emmons Narcissism scale of 36 items (1981, 1984).

RESULTSAND DISCUSSION The distribution was divided into quartiles according to the students' empathy scores. The most empathetic students are more assertive and less narcissistic than the least empathetic students (Table 1).They show less selfesteem on the Battle's test, are more sensitive, and use a more honest response set. The most empathetic ones have more negative attitudes towards smoking behaviour and the use of alcohol (Table 2). They have less often tried smoking and smoke less and use less alcohol than the least empathetic students. They have been more interested in discussing the use and dangers of drugs with their families, although they had no such problems. The most empathetic students are eager to have more information on temperance education. TABLE 1

Tests Self-assertiveness Narcissism Self-esteem Sensitivity Lie Scale

Lowest Quartile

Highest QuartiIe





99.5 69.8 26.8 10.8 6.2

13.4 12.5 5.6 2.3 1.6

106.8 63.2 26.2 16.1 7.0

11.4 12.5 5.5 1.6 1.2


13.2$ 12.Q 2.4t 61.7$ l2.0t

Empathy is an essential means of coping which can be learned at different ages; training of other social skills becomes important: skills of discussion, problem solving, decision-making, empathetic listening, self-disclosure, conciliation, negotiation, and self-control as well as assertive training. Smoking and use of alcohol seem associated; both habits also have a slight, neg-





A. I t is right that the law forbids sellin tobacco to persons under 16 years of age. B. The dangers of smoking have been exaggerate%: C. Moderate alcohol use is part of daily life. D. Alcohol gives nobody real pleasure. A B C D Lowest Highest Lowest Highest Lowest Highest Lowest Highest Absolutely Agree Almost Agree Hard to Say Almost Disagree Absolutely Disagree yZ

( D S ,001)

49.5 16.5 14.0 9.8 10.2

56.8 23.1 8.9 8.7 2.5


34.7 14.1 20.2 15.3 15.6

50.5 14.0 10.9 13.3 11.8


30.3 20.2 20.3 10.4 18.8

18.4 26.0 14.3 19.4 21.9


23.7 12.4 22.6 21.1 20.3

25.0 19.0 17.8 26.6 11.6


ative association with school success. Empathy education programs should guide the energy of the children and the young to activities which promote diversified development of the personality and strengthen self-esteem. A good empathy status is also associated with inner self-control; a certain level of self-esteem is needed for, when sound self-esteem is combined with medium level of assertiveness, then the person has capacity to defend self and demand rights. Empathetic persons do not score exaggeratedly strong on self-esteem or on narcissism. Empathy can play an important role in the promotion of the mental growth and health behaviour: the most empathetic students seem to have also more positive attitudes towards health behaviour than least empathetic ones. They are eager to know more about temperance education at schools and the effects of drugs, and they have discussed issues with their parents. It seems obvious, e.g., in discussion and negotiation to deal with problems of everyday life. The least empathetic students convey a different picture. REFERENCES

BATTLE,J. (1981) Culture Free Self-esteem Inventories for Children and Adults. Seattle, WA: Special Child Publ. COOPERSMITH, S. (1967) The antecedents ofself-esteem. San Francisco, CA: Freeman. EMMONS, R. A. (1981) Relationship between narcissism and sensation-seeking. Psychological Reports, 48, 247-250. E ~ O N SR., A. (1984) Factor analysis and construct validity of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. Journal of Personality Asssessment, 48, 291-300. KALUOPUSKA, M. (1983) Empatia-tie ihmisyyteen. [Empathy-the way to humanity.] Helsinki: Kirjayhtyma. KALLIOPUSKA,M. (1984) Itsetunto. [Self-esteem.] Helsinki: Kirjayhtyma. KALLIOPUSKA, M. (1986) Empatian ja itsecunnon yhteys terveyskayttaytymiseen. RaiM'uskaruahrs, 3, 4-27. KALLIOPUSKA, M. (1990) Self-esteem and empathy as related to participation in the arts or s orts activities. In L. Oppenheimer (Ed.), The self-concept: European perspectives on its Bae~oprneni,aspects, and applications. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Pp. 121-132.



KALLIOPUSKA, M., KEVA,A,, KOSKELAINEN, M., RUOKONEN, I., & T ~ E NU., (1985) Ehytyua kasvatus. [Experiencing education.] Helsinlu: Kujayhtyma. MEHRABIAN, A., & EPSTEIN,N. (1972) A measure of emotional empathy. lournal of Personality, 40, 525-543.

OSBORN, S., & HARRIS,G. (1978) hertiueness iraining for women. Springfield, IL: Thomas. M. (1979) Conceiuing the self. New York: Basic Books. ROSENBERG, Accepted May 1 1 , 1992.

Attitudes towards health, health behaviour, and personality factors among school students very high on empathy.

It was hypothesized that school students very high on empathy would have better self-esteem, behave in a healthier manner, and also have more positive...
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