University Of Tasmania

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The Development of Empathy in Gifted Children through the Lens of TPD

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 19:13 authored by Amanda HarperAmanda Harper, Cornish, LJ, Smith, S, Merrotsy, P
This study was conducted to ascertain whether Dąbrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration informs the understanding of the development of empathy in gifted and typical students, and if so, in what ways does this occur (Dąbrowski, 1964, 1966, 1996, 2010; Mendaglio, 2002, 2008, 2012; Tillier, 2002, 2009). The study adopted a phenomenological, mixed methods approach (Penn-Edwards, 2010). A purposive sample of grade 5/6 students was recruited from primary schools in southern Tasmania, Australia. The quantitative data were gathered through the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) (Davis, 1980, 1983) and qualitative data were gathered through individual semi-structured interviews and analysed using Leximancer v2.2 software (Smith & Humphries, 2006)

The study found significant differences in the responses of gifted and typical students, on two empathy subscales from within the IRI. Comparison with the qualitative results supported this finding. The characteristics manifested through these subscales were compared to behaviours documented through Dąbrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration. Despite the small sample, several overexcitabilities and their inherent developmental dynamisms, were matched with the IRI subscale characteristics to ascertain an indication of students’ developmental levels. This study concluded that a deeper understanding of Dąbrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration could:

1. contribute to the improvement of educational provision for both typical and gifted children and young people;

2. inform the understanding of empathic development in gifted children and young people; and

3. provide for those individuals who work and live with these students, a framework for better understanding, supporting and nurturing empathic development.


Publication title

Eleventh International Dabrowski Congress


College Office - College of Sciences and Engineering

Event title

Eleventh International Dabrowski Congress

Event Venue

Canmore, Canada

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Inclusive education; Pedagogy