Susan M. Swearer
Date of this Version
Bullying is a significant issue among school-aged youth, and it is important to examine the underlying mechanisms of these behaviors. Studies have shown that one characteristic found among some children who bully is a lack of empathy. Previous literature examining empathy and bullying has typically relied on the use of self-report data. Few studies have included other ways of evaluating empathy. Self-report data can be limiting, particularly for individuals who possess strengths other than verbal/linguistic. Drawings have been found to reveal insight into children’s emotions and may be more suited to assessing empathy. Studying children’s drawings of bullying, and their self-reported empathy may help extend research related to empathy and bullying. Using a mixed-methods research design, this study examined the relationship among bully/victim status, empathy, multiple intelligences through the evaluation of children’s drawings of bullying, in conjunction with their self-reported empathy. Quantitative results found that there were significant differences in empathy scores between participants identifying as “bullies” and “bully-victims” on Personal Distress. Additionally, there were significant differences in empathy scores found between female and male participants on Perspective Taking. All other quantitative results did not provide evidence of differences in empathy across bully/victim status, gender, nor age. Qualitative results did not provide evidence of differences in participants’ ability to draw indicators of empathy based on bully/victim status, gender, age, or multiple intelligence types (suggesting that all participants were equally capable of drawing indicators of empathy). Mixed methods results found convergent, complementary, and divergent findings when participants’ quantitative and qualitative responses were combined. Specifically, consistent themes across participants’ quantitative and qualitative responses were found. Furthermore, it was found that participants who had lower empathy scores on the quantitative measure drew markers of empathy in their pictures. These participants endorsed dominance in intelligence types that were non-verbal (i.e., bodily/kinesthetic, visual/spatial). Results support the integration of quantitative and qualitative measures to assess and expand on research relating to the relationship and nuances among bullying, empathy, and multiple intelligences. These results may serve to inform bullying research, clinical utility, and intervention efforts seeking to ameliorate bullying problems among school-aged youth.