Could Empathy Lead to Community Development? A Study on the Factors Shaping and Maintaining Personal Empathy.

Open Access
Bataineh, Karim
Graduate Program:
Rural Sociology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 21, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Mark A Brennan Jr., Thesis Advisor
  • Empathy
  • Interaction
  • Community Development
  • Conflict Resolution.
Episodes of violence and conflict on a global scale highlight the need for individuals and communities to come together in meaningful ways to bring about positive social development and stable, peaceful social conditions. This is particularly true for individuals who find themselves in peacekeeping scenarios, such as North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) personnel. One driver that can lead to such cohesion on an individual level is the concept of empathy. This thesis focuses on the exploration of several key factors which are central to the emergence of empathy. Drawing from community focused, Interactional Field Theory the process by which empathy is conceptualized, developed, and applied is further expanded. A quantitative study was utilized using surveys to measure the relationship between social interaction, sociodemographics and empathy in a unique case study of NATO cadets. The literature and corresponding research data identifies possible implications of the concepts in the fields of community development, international development, and conflict resolution. The results indicate that for military cadets in training, gender, number of interactive facilitated dialogues one participates in, and number of countries one visits are the most significant variables contributing to empathy development. The results are interpreted and policy recommendations are provided in the context of military training and educational programs aimed to achieve positive community development and conflict resolution.