Teenage boys who show empathy attract 1.8 more girlfriends than boys who don't

June 08, 2016

Boys high in cognitive empathy attracted an average of 1.8 more girl friendships than low empathy counterparts, as revealed by a landmark study - When Empathy Matters: The Role of Sex and Empathy in Close Friendships.

The Australian Research Council-funded research, led by Professor Joseph Ciarrochi at the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at Australian Catholic University, has been published in the Journal of Personality.

It is the first study to examine the extent that adolescent males and females select empathic classmates as friends. And the conclusion based on a study of 1,970 Year 10 students in Queensland and New South Wales (average age of 15.7 years) is that girls are more likely to nominate empathic boys as friends.

In contrast, empathetic girls didn't rate quite so highly with the opposite sex. In fact, the study found girls with empathetic qualities "did not attract a greater number of opposite sex friends" at all.

And, what's more, it doesn't seem to bother girls who, regardless, reported an overall feeling of friendship support. "The more friendship nominations a boy received from either boys or girls, the more they felt supported by their friends; the number of friendship nominations received by girls, in contrast, had no effect on their felt support by friends. Regardless of the quantity of friendship nominations, empathy was linked to more supportive friendships for both males and females," Professor Ciarrochi said.

The researchers defined cognitive empathy as the capacity to comprehend the emotions of another person.

They asked students to nominate up to five of their closest male and five closest female friends in the same year. Students were asked questions such as "when someone is feeling down, I can usually understand how they feel," and "I can often understand how people are feeling even before they tell me".

And using what is called the 'Friendship Subscale' of the 'Student Social Support Scale', students made selections from the following: "My close friend(s)...", "give me advice," "helps me when I need it," "spends time with me when I'm lonely," "accepts me when I make a mistake," "calms me down when I'm nervous about something," "understands my feelings," and "explains things when I'm confused".

Professor Ciarrochi said: "Friends are essential to positive adolescent development. It's well established that in addition to providing companionship, close friendships promote the development of interpersonal skills, learning, and growth. Having friends has also been linked with lower rates of depression and, to people feeling good about themselves," he said.

"This research suggests it is critical to identify and teach young people the skills they need to develop supportive friendships. To that end, our study provides a contextual understanding of the role of empathy in selecting and maintaining friendships," Professor Ciarrochi said.
-end-
Notes to Editors

1. Professor Joseph Ciarrochi is available for comment: M: + 61 (0)419008430
E: joseph.ciarrochi@acu.edu.au

2. ACU Research Media contact: Rajiv Maharaj. M: + 61 (0)476 853 461.
E: rajiv.maharaj@acu.edu.au

Australian Catholic University

Related Empathy Articles from Brightsurf:

Empathy and perspective taking: How social skills are built
Being able to feel empathy and to take in the other person's perspective are two abilities through which we understand what is going on in the other's mind.

Empathy may be in the eye of the beholder
Do we always want people to show empathy? Not so, said researchers from the University of California, Davis.

Empathy exacerbates discussions about immigration
Discussions about immigration are heated, even antagonistic. But what happens when supporters and opponents undertake to show more empathy?

Empathy prevents COVID-19 spreading
The more empathetic we are, the more likely it is that we will keep our distance and use face masks to prevent coronavirus spreading.

Binge-drinkers' brains have to work harder to feel empathy for others
New research shows that binge-drinkers' brains have to put more effort into trying to feel empathy for other people in pain.

Make the best of bad reviews by leveraging consumer empathy
When confronted with unfair negative reviews, firms can strategically leverage consumer empathy and benefit from potential downstream consequences.

Learning empathy as a care giver takes more than experience
Research among nursing students shows that past experience living in poverty or volunteering in impoverished communities, does not sufficiently build empathy towards patients who experience poverty.

Study finds empathy can be detected in people whose brains are at rest
UCLA researchers have found that it is possible to assess a person's ability to feel empathy by studying their brain activity while they are resting rather than while they are engaged in specific tasks.

Empathy for perpetrators helps explain victim blaming in sexual harassment
Men's empathy for other men who sexually harass women may help explain why they are more likely to blame victims, new research suggests.

Researchers suggest empathy be a factor in medical school admissions
The national norms can help to distinguish between two applicants with similar academic qualifications, and identify students who might need additional educational remedies to bolster their level of empathy.

Read More: Empathy News and Empathy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.