Emotion recognition abilities and empathy of victims of bullying
Objectives: Bullying is a form of systematic abuse by peers with often serious consequences for victims. Few studies have considered the role of emotion recognition abilities and empathic behaviour for different bullying roles. This study investigated physical and relational bullying involvement in relation to basic emotion recognition abilities, and empathic styles in children. Using the framework of the Social Information Processing model, it was expected that victims would have poor emotion recognition abilities, and that bullies would demonstrate low levels of empathy. Methods: Data was collected from UK children (N = 373) aged 9-11 years who completed a bullying instrument, the Bryant Index of Empathy measurement, and the DANVA (Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy) to assess emotion recognition abilities. Children were classified into physical and relational bullying roles (bully, victim, bully/victim neutral) for analytical purposes. Results: While physical victims, bullies and neutrals differed little in their emotion recognition abilities, relational victims were particularly poor in recognising negative emotions of anger and fear in faces. No differences were found in empathy scores, according to bullying roles. Conclusions: Children who are relationally victimised are poorer in understanding emotional information than bullies and non-involved children. In light of previous research that victims of bullying more frequently experience child abuse, future interventions should consider the importance of emotion and social skills training for these vulnerable children.