Teacher empathy and its impact on bullying in schools

Samuel Scott Underwood, Tennessee State University


Bullying is a prelude to murder. Victims of bullying have resorted to extreme acts of violence in order to escape the torment that bullies have created in victims’ lives. Research on empathy supports the idea that teacher empathy could ameliorate bullying in schools. This study investigated whether or not teacher empathy had an impact on decreasing bullying in schools. Data were gathered from teachers regarding their level of empathy, as well as student data on bullying. Variables included overall incidents of bullying, bullying by the students’ gender and race. The participants were students and teachers in two middle schools in an urban school district in the mid-south. The teacher data were collected using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, consisting of four subscales, to find the mean empathy level for the teachers in the two participating schools. The four empathy subscales were the Perspective Taking subscale, Fantasy subscale, Empathic Concern subscale and Personal Distress subscale. Student data were gathered from the Olweus Standard School Report that identified the overall number of incidents of student bullying, as well as by students’ gender and race. Teacher data were analyzed using t-tests to determine whether or not statistically significant differences on teacher empathy were found between the two schools. Chi-Square tests were administered to determine whether or not statistically significant differences in students’ perception of being bullied were found between the two schools. Results of the data analysis revealed the school that scored significantly higher in three of the four teacher empathy subscales also had significantly higher incidents of bullying. This positive relationship between teacher empathy level and the number of incidents of bullying within the same school leads the researcher to conclude that teacher empathy had no impact on decreasing the number of bullying incidents. Another significant finding was that white students had the highest incidents of bullying in each of the two schools, as compared to the black and Hispanic students. For further research, it is recommended that a large-scale correlational study be conducted in order to determine whether or not statistically significant relationships exist between bullying incidents in schools and students’ race.

Subject Area

Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Samuel Scott Underwood, "Teacher empathy and its impact on bullying in schools" (2010). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3404178.