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Ying and Yang of Empathy and Aggression Differ for Boys and Girls

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Eider Pascual-Sagastizabal, PhD

Professor of Evolutionary Psychology and Education
University School of Education of Bilbao (Leioa)
University of the Basque Country 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The search for markers of aggression during childhood is a particularly relevant area of research, since the results of intervention and prevention during this developmental stage are more promising than those obtained during later stages. The psychobiological approach to aggressive behavior is of particular importance, as it analyzes the joint, interactive influence of both psychological and biological variables.

We have found that there are different interactions on a biological and psychological level that could account for aggressive behavior in children. More deeply, empathy and hormones could together account for aggressive behavior. In fact, the interactions were different for boys and for girls. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: These results are essential for understanding why there are things that work when they are applied or if one intervene, and why at other times they don’t work. For example, it has always been said that the more empathy there is, the less aggressive behavior you will show, but what we are contributing is that it may not always be like that. That what we need is a psychobiological combination to explain that aggressive level. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: In the future, it would be interesting to explore whether the interactions described affect boys and girls with antisocial behavior problems. Furthermore, as regards real-world applications, the detection of psychobiological markers for aggression in children may constitute a useful tool for implementing preventive intervention strategies in early developmental stages, during which such strategies have proven to be more effective. 


Eider Pascual-Sagastizabal et al. Testosterone and cortisol modulate the effects of empathy on aggression in children, Psychoneuroendocrinology (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.01.014 

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Apr 18, 2019 @ 1:50 pm 

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