Research Article: Explanatory model of violent behaviours, self-concept and empathy in schoolchildren. Structural equations analysis

Date Published: August 16, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Manuel Castro-Sánchez, Félix Zurita-Ortega, Gerardo Ruiz-Rico Ruiz, Ramón Chacón-Cuberos, Meagan O’Malley.


The increased visibility of bullying cases has led the scientific community to be more interested in analysing the factors affecting these behaviours in order to reduce bullying cases and their negative consequences. The aim of this study was to define and contrast an explanatory model that makes it possible to analyse the relationships between self-concept, empathy and violent behaviours in schoolchildren through structural equation analysis. The sample of this study is made up of 734 schoolchildren from the province of Granada (Spain), both male and female, aged between 10 and 12, and it consists of analysing self-concept (AF-5), empathy levels (TECA) and violent behaviour at schools (ECV). A structural equation model was performed and successfully adjusted (χ2 = 563.203; DF = 59; p < 0.001; CFI = 0.943; NFI = 0.937; IFI = 0.943; RMSEA = 0.076). A positive and direct relationship between self-concept and cognitive empathy has been found; manifest aggression is negatively related to self-concept. Similarly, affective empathy has a negative relationship with relational aggression. The main conclusions of this study are that the levels of self-concept and empathy represent protective factors against the development of violent and victimisation behaviours in schoolchildren.

Partial Text

In recent decades, there has been an increase in the visibility of bullying cases, which has led to an increase in the number of reports of such violent behaviours, representing an epidemic in the 21st century [1,2]. Due to greater visibility of the problem and better knowledge of the consequences that bullying can have on younger subjects, sometimes leading to suicide, social awareness of bullying situations has increased, looking for measures to tackle this problem [3–5]. The research developed by Moreno-Jiménez, Rodríguez-Muñoz, Salin and Morante [6] indicated that four out of every five students acknowledged having carried out some type of school violence. Similarly, Rechea [7] highlighted that a 72% of adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years-old had carried out antisocial or criminal behavior in the last year.

Table 1 shows the descriptive data of the self-concept, empathy and violent behavior of the sample, observing both the total scores and the differences by sex.

Reviewing the scientific literature associated with the factors analysed in this research, we find an inverse association between violent behaviors and levels of empathy, showing how subjects with higher levels of empathy are more reluctant to perpetrate and observe the violent behavior [38–39]. Regarding self-concept and violent behavior, several international studies show an inverse association between these factors, finding that individuals with greater self-concept are less likely to develop violent behavior [40]. Finally, a positive and direct association has been found between the levels of empathy of the pre-adolescents and their self-concept [35]. Due to these reasons, this research presents a model of structural equations that explains the connection between the psychosocial factors mentioned, based on the scientific literature analysed.

The main conclusions of this research work are that the indicator with the greatest influence on self-concept is its academic dimension, followed by family, social, physical and emotional. With regard to violent behaviours, the type of aggression, both manifest and relational, that has the greatest influence is instrumental aggression, followed by pure and reactive aggressions.