Being nice to be mean : the hidden associations among prosocial behavior, relational aggression, and empathy
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Although some researchers have interpreted findings from longitudinal studies demonstrating consistent negative associations between prosocial and aggressive behaviors to mean that there is an inverse relationship between prosociality and aggression, preliminary research findings have suggested that when the intentions and motivations surrounding prosocial and aggressive acts are considered, these interpersonal interaction styles may be more alike than previously believed. The current study analyzed survey responses from 176 freshmen and sophomore students to investigate how engagement in intentionally aggressive behaviors related to various forms of prosocial behavior. This study also evaluated how levels of cognitive and affective empathy impact students' engagement in aggressive and prosocial behavior. Results revealed that contrary to previous findings, higher levels of cognitive and affective empathy are not associated with lower levels of relational aggression. Additionally, results demonstrated that engagement in instrumental prosocial behavior is positively associated with engagement in instrumental relational aggression providing additional support for the notion that those who engage in prosocial behavior do not necessarily avoid engagement in aggressive behaviors.