Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 45–60 | Cite as

Empathy, Attitude Towards Bullying, Theory-of-Mind, and Non-physical Forms of Bully Perpetration and Victimization Among U.S. Middle School Students

  • Dorothy L. Espelage
  • Jun Sung Hong
  • Dong Ha Kim
  • Luana Nan
Original Paper



Children’s bullying involvement may arise from biases and deficiencies in social information processing, and it is important to consider cognitive and emotional aspects of bullying because social cognition is an important aspect of children’s social skills and their ability to get along with others. It is also important to understand how children see things from others’ point-of-view.


The study examined whether empathic concern, perspective-taking, attitude towards bullying, and Theory-of-Mind were associated with non-physical form of bully perpetration and victimization in diverse sample of middle school students.


Participants included 310 students (grades 6–7) from a small, Midwestern town who completed a 45-min survey encompassing demographic questions and self-report measures of bullying, victimization, empathic concern, perspective-taking, and positive attitude towards bullying. Vignettes were also used to assess students’ Theory-of-Mind.


Non-physical bully perpetration was higher for African American students. We also found that students’ perspective-taking was negatively associated with non-physical bully perpetration, while positive attitude towards bullying was positively associated with non-physical bully perpetration.


The findings suggest empathy and understanding of how youth see things from others’ point-of-view may be important factor in bullying.


Attitude towards bullying Bully perpetration Bully victimization Early adolescents Empathy Theory-of-Mind 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorothy L. Espelage
    • 1
  • Jun Sung Hong
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dong Ha Kim
    • 4
  • Luana Nan
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  3. 3.Department of Social WelfareSungkyunkwan UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  4. 4.Department of Social WelfareChungwoon UniversityHongseongSouth Korea
  5. 5.College of Veterinary Medicine Counseling and Wellness ServicesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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