Moral sensitivity and peer violence: the role of empathy and caring dr. Vesna Bilić
Summary: The significance and role of morality has recently become increasingly emphasized in explaining the nature of violent behavior among peers. To better understand this phenomenon, this paper examines the relationship between different forms of violent behavior (physical, verbal, relational, and electronic) in children toward peers, using empathy and caring (support) as indicators of connection with others, which are important components of moral sensitivity. The study included 481 students from primary schools in the Republic of Croatia (average age: 13.8). The respondents stated that they are more violent to their peers directly (verbally and physically) and indirectly (relational and electronic), that indirect forms of violence are less frequent, and that there is a propensity toward multiple forms of violence. The results of the correlation analysis showed that greater empathy and caring are associated with less frequent violent behavior toward peers. Multiple regression analysis showed that lack of support from adults is a predictor of all types of violence. In other words, students from a less caring environment are more prone to violent behavior toward their peers. This study suggests the need to foster empathy and support from adults as protective factors against student violent behavior toward peers and that the ethics of caring is an important prevention activity in schools.