The Relation Between Empathy and Aggression: The Role of Attachment Style


  • Maria Grazia Lo Cricchio
  • Pasquale Musso
  • Alida Lo Coco
  • Rosalinda Cassibba
  • Francesca Liga


This study aimed to examine the explaining and moderating role of attachment style profiles on the association between empathy and aggression. Participants were 548 Italian adults (M = 47.62 years, SD = 6.14) who completed a survey measuring attachment, empathy, and aggression. Using cluster analytic methods, initial results indicated two attachment style profiles to be considered (secure vs. insecure). However, we also extracted a more theoretically guided four-cluster solution including preoccupied, secure, fearful, and dismissing profiles. Moreover, structural equation modelling showed that higher levels of empathy linked to lower levels of aggression. Nonetheless, when introducing in the model the dichotomous or the multi-categorical attachment style profile variable as predictive of both empathy and aggression, their association became not significant, while secure attachment profile significantly presented higher levels of empathy and lower levels of aggression compared to the other profiles. Furthermore, attachment style profile moderated the link between empathy and aggression. Specifically, in the secure group empathy and aggression were negatively related, but no significant association was evidenced in the other groups. Findings are discussed in the light of the literature.