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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 125-129  Table of Contents     

Empathy and personality traits as predictors of adjustment in Indian youth

Defence Institute of Psychological Research, Defence Research and Development Organization, Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication9-Oct-2013

Correspondence Address:
Yashwant K Nagle
Defence Institute of Psychological Research, Defence Research and Development Organization, Lucknow Road, Timarpur, Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-6748.119608

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Background: Although adjustment has been studied in relation with a host of variables, the relevance of empathy and its importance in the process of adjustment has received little attention. It is a well-known fact that personality plays a very important role in our interactions and dealings and also that empathy facilitates this process. Settings and Design: This study evaluated whether these two things combined together affect or predict adjustment. A random sample of 52 young male adults volunteered for this study. Materials and Methods: These 52 male participants filled up questionnaires related to personality (The Jackson Personality Inventory), empathy. The Empathy Quotient) and adjustment (Bell adjustment inventory). Analysis and Results: The data were analyzed using correlation and regression analysis. Personality traits like interpersonal affect, conformity facilitated the process of adjustment, whereas traits like anxiety worked in the opposite direction. Empathy also emerged as a significant contributor to the social adjustment. Conclusions: Results showed that both empathy and personality traits accounted for unique variance in adjustment. Results are discussed in terms of empathy, personality traits and their role in adjustment.

Keywords: Adjustment, empathy, Indian youth

How to cite this article:
Nagle YK, Anand K. Empathy and personality traits as predictors of adjustment in Indian youth. Ind Psychiatry J 2012;21:125-9

How to cite this URL:
Nagle YK, Anand K. Empathy and personality traits as predictors of adjustment in Indian youth. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2012 [cited 2020 Oct 29];21:125-9. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2012/21/2/125/119608

Rising incidents of delinquency and crime show that the adjustment of present-day youth is on a downward drift. Emotional disturbances and interpersonal problems that our youth is facing these days are on rise. [1] Increase in depression, suicidal rates, drug use is the clear indication of the challenges of present-day adolescents. Use of heavy drugs and youth dropouts has also increased in the recent years. [2]

Empathy is defines as 'the ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand her emotions and feelings'. [3] Empathy is the ability to understand emotions, accurately express feelings, comprehend others' situations and act appropriately. It is one of the key factors in establishing healthy relationships. Empathy plays a crucial role in the development of behavior, [4],[5],[6] which in turn helps inhibit aggression toward others. Empathy facilitates positive psychological development and healthy relationships, as well as restrains aggression. Empathy serves as a learned lesson and as an inhibitor of further aggressive acts to a child who vicariously experienced pain through another child's experience. [7],[8] It is widely believed that empathy encourages prosocial or altruistic behavior and numerous studies appear to support this view. It has also been proposed that a lack of empathy encourages aggressive or antisocial behavior, as such actions might be facilitated in those who fail to appreciate the feelings of other. [9]

Personality of an individual is assessed by the effectiveness with which he or she is able to elicit positive reactions from a variety of person's under different circumstances. It is also considered to elicit salient impression on others. Personality permits a prediction of 'what a person will do in a given situation'. Personality trait attributions are often adequate to explain 'events' for many everyday purposes in common-sense psychology. [10] Personality traits are the ultimate realities and psychological organization. [11]

Review of research also indicated prior research pertaining to the role of personality as predictors of adjustment. However the role of empathy warrants a special attention. This study was undertaken with an aim to investigate the role of empathy and personality traits as predictors of adjustment. This endeavor is likely to be beneficial to the society in promoting empathy for better adjustment and psychological well being of young adults.

   Materials and Methods Top


[Table 1] shows that the sample consisted of 52 young male adults (17-22 years) from southern and central part of India who volunteered for the study involving 'empathy, adjustment and personality'. Participants' mean age was 18.12 years (SD=0.74), and 45% were in senior secondary school and 55% were pursuing graduation at Bhopal (Central India) and Bangalore (South India). The sample consisted of middle-class young adults from urban and semiurban areas. The main inclusion criteria were higher secondary education level. Family psychopathology and psychiatric problems were ruled out.
Table 1: Correlation between empathy, adjustment and personality traits

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The empathy quotient (EQ) that is a self-administered forced choice scale comprising of 60 items, 40 assessing empathizing and 20 filler items. Approximately, half the items are worded to produce a 'disagree' response and half 'agree' response. The items are randomized to avoid a response bias. [12] The scale has been used in Indian studies. The internal consistency of the Empathy quotient, measured by Cronbach's alpha coefficient was 0.78. The test retest reliability was good as measured by Pearson's r correlation coefficient was r=0.84 (P<0.001). Moderate associations were found between the empathy quotient and interpersonal reactivity index subscales, suggesting concurrent validity.


The Jackson personality inventory (JPI) is widely considered to be one of the most psychometrically sound measures of personality. [13] The JPI-R provides valid and reliable insight into an individual's personality and ability to function in a wide range of settings from work, organizational, leadership and social situations. In one convenient form, the JPI provides a measure of personality consisting of 16 subscales that reflect a variety of social, cognitive and value orientations, which affect an individual's functioning. It has 320 items that have two response options: True or False. Reliability as median internal consistency (Bentler's theta) were 0.90 and 0.93 and item-total correlations indicate that items correlate higher on average with their own scale's total score than they do with the total score on any of the other 14 scales. Correlations between the JPI-R and several well-known measures of personality provide evidence of convergent and discriminate validity.


Bell's adjustment inventory revised (1962) was used in this study. The adjustment inventory provides four separate measures of personal and social adjustment. It consists of 140 items, which are to be answered in yes, no or Question Mark (?), pertaining to four adjustment domains, that is, home, health, social and emotional. [14]


The participants were administered the questionnaires anonymously in small groups. They were provided with necessary information about the study and were ensured about the confidentiality. They were instructed and given time to get relaxed and comfortable. The order of the questionnaires was changed for different groups to check the potential order effects.

   Results Top

Empathy scores correlated positively with the adjustment scores on the dimensions of home adjustment (r=0.18) and health adjustment (r=0.05) that is not significant. But empathy positively and significantly correlated with the social adjustment dimensions of adjustment scores (r=0.29); on the contrary empathy was negatively correlated emotional adjustment (r=-0.26) that was also not significant.

It also emerged that home adjustment was positively and significantly correlated with interpersonal affect dimension of personality (r=0.33, P<0.05) where as intercorrelation between health adjustment and different personality dimensions were not significant except with anxiety (r=0.33, P<0.01).

The score on social adjustment (C) were correlated positively and significantly with the anxiety (r=0.29, P<0.05), breadth of interest (0.37, P<0.01), complexity (0.29, P<0.05), conformity (0.34, P<0.05), interpersonal affect (0.46, P<0.01) and value orthodoxy (0.35, P<0.05) dimensions of personality.

The scores on emotional adjustment was positively and significantly correlated with only two dimensions of personality, namely anxiety (0.59, P<0.01) and conformity (0.34, P<0.05).

Stepwise multiple regression analyses were used to evaluate the unique contribution of personality traits and empathy on four domains of adjustment. Regression results are displayed in [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5].
Table 2: Multiple regression summaries of social adjustment

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Table 3: Multiple regression summaries of home adjustment

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Table 4: Multiple regression summaries of health adjustment

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Table 5: Multiple regression summaries of emotional adjustment

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Model 1 shows multiple regression summary of empathy and social adjustment, wherein correlation between the two was found to be 0.29 (sig=0.05). Further it shows that empathy is a significant predictor of social adjustment. However, none of the other domains are affected by empathy significantly. It shows that higher the score on empathy, the better will be social adjustment. Empathy predicts 8.4% variance in the extent of social adjustment. The F-value obtained was 4.58, which is significant at 0.037 levels.

Model 2 shows multiple regression summary of anxiety (ANX), breadth of interest (BDI), complexity (CPX), conformity (CNY), interpersonal affect (IAF) and value orthodoxy (VOL) dimensions of personality and social adjustment. It shows that these six dimension of personality combined together are a significant predictor of social adjustment. Together they predict 33.5% variance in the extent of social adjustment. The F-value obtained was 3.784, which is significant at 0.004 levels.

[Table 3] shows multiple regression summary of IAF dimension of personality and home adjustment, wherein correlation between the two was found to be 0.33 (sig=0.05). Further it reveals that IAF dimension of personality is a significant predictor of home adjustment. However, none of the other dimensions of personality contribute significantly to home adjustment. It shows that higher the score on IAF, the better will be home adjustment. Interpersonal affect predicts 11.2% variance in the extent of home adjustment. The F-value obtained was 6.307, which is significant at 0.015 levels.

[Table 4] shows multiple regression summary of anxiety dimension of personality and health adjustment. It emerges that anxiety dimension of personality is a significant predictor of health adjustment. However, none of the other dimensions of personality contribute significantly to health adjustment. Anxiety predicts 11.2% variance in the extent of health adjustment. The F-value obtained was 7.215, which is significant at 0.010 levels.

[Table 5] shows multiple regression summaries of ANX and CNY dimensions of personality and emotional adjustment. It shows that combined together they are a significant predictor of emotional adjustment. Together they predict 35% variance in the extent of emotional adjustment. The F-value obtained was 13.209, which is significant at 0.000 levels.

   Discussion Top

Level of empathy that emerged from the sample of young adults is above average as the average score is 46.2 (mean=46.2, SD=10.6) that indicates the good ability for understanding how other people feel and responding appropriately and they know very well how to treat people with care and sensitivity. Low scores on BDI indicate that young adults had narrow range of interests, remain uninterested when exposed to new activities and also had few hobbies. Sample showed low scores on complexity, which indicates that they prefer concrete to abstract interpretations, avoid contemplative thought and uninterested in probing for new insight.

Home adjustment was positively and significantly correlated with IAF. Health adjustment and social adjustment were significantly correlated with ANX. Further, ANX, BDI, CPX, CNY, IAF and VOL were also significantly correlated with social adjustment (C). Emotional adjustment significantly correlated with ANX and CNY. Studies have found that stress is associated with depressive symptoms, [14] anxious symptoms [15] and greater suicide ideation. [16] Finally, a number of studies have shown that stress often mediates the link between personality process variables and psychological adjustment. For example, recent studies have shown that stress partially mediates the relationship between perfectionism and psychological adjustment. [17] Anxiety accounted for a great variance in adjustment of those children whose one parent was suffering from cancer. [18] In another study, training in stress-coping has been found effective in improvement in emotional adjustment. [19] One longitudinal study showed that the extraversion and anxiety predicted psychological adjustment of students. [20] Social adjustment of the medical cadets was found to be positively correlated with personality, emotional stability, sensitivity, group conformity, social boldness, self-control, etc. [21]

The home adjustment score was found to be high average that indicates unsatisfactory home adjustment among young adults. This might be because of high pressure of parents as competitive environment prevailing in the society. Studies have found that one-third to one-half of adolescents struggle with low self-esteem, especially in early adolescence. [22],[23] The results of low self-esteem can be temporary, but in serious cases can lead to various problems including depression, delinquency, self-inflicted injuries, suicide [24],[25] and anorexia nervosa.

Empathy came out to be significantly correlated with social adjustment. Theorists argue and found support for the idea that negative emotionality is closely linked to the experience of prosocial emotion such as empathy and guilt. Emotion has also been associated with low level of aggression and high level of prosocial behavior. [26] Empathy plays a crucial role in the development of prosocial behavior, [2],[3],[4] which in turn helps inhibit aggression toward others. [3],[5]

As was expected, personality traits emerged as good predictor of adjustment. However, this study hinted at the idea that anxiety and interpersonal affect can be used to predict adjustment in young adults. It would be premature to consider this result as proof for a specific adjustment theory. However, it can be assumed that within an academic contest this notion might be more valuable.

The study was conducted on males only and the results could not be compared with females and makes the gender differentiation difficult. The sample size is relatively small and future studies with larger sample may reveal generalized findings on the predictors of adjustment. Since only the urban and semiurban adults who volunteered to be a part of this study were selected, the rural population could not be studied. Sample from both the parts of India was pooled, so the difference in the performance of these geographically and culturally diverse samples could not be analyzed.

   References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]


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