Psihologija 2011 Volume 44, Issue 2, Pages: 97-115
doi:10.2298/PSI1102097D
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Psychological characteristics of future helping professionals: Empathy and attachment of psychology students

Dimitrijević Aleksandar, Hanak Nataša, Milojević Sonja

In this study we investigated whether psychology students differ than students who have chosen non-helping professions in psychological features important for helping activities: attachment and empathy. The sample consisted of psychology students from Belgrade and Novi Sad (N=452) and students from several Belgrade University faculties for non-helping professions. The revised version of Attachment Questionnaire was used for assessment of attachment, while empathy was assessed by Empathy Quotient. The results confirmed hypotheses about the greater prevalence of secure attachment pattern, higher empathic capacity, better mentalizing, and more positive model of the other among the future helpers. These differences between student groups are present at the enrolment, with gender controlled. Finally, the prevalence of the secure attachment pattern and high empathy scores rises with the years spent at studying psychology. We concluded that psychology studies are chosen by persons with higher motivation and capacities for helping professions. Although women outnumber men, differences between the future helping professionals and others cannot be explained by the gender structure of the sample, since men in the helping professions have better results than women in the nonhelping ones.

Keywords: psychology students, helping professions, empathy, attachment, mentalizing

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