The Importance of Offense Characteristics, Victimization History, Hostility, and Social Desirability in Assessing Empathy of Male Adolescent Sex Offenders

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Abstract

Empathy has been a focus of work with sex offenders; however, there are a limited number of studies supporting this as a deficit. The study investigated the reliability and validity of 3 scales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI)—Empathic Concern [EC], Perspective-Taking [PT], and Personal Distress [PD]—within a clinical sample. These scales were also used to examine the differences in empathy among groups of sex offenders. One hundred and twenty-three male adolescent sex offenders (ages 12–19) completed a battery of psychometric measures that included the IRI during a sex-offender-specific assessment. Moderate internal consistency and convergent validity was established for IRI scales. Age and social desirability were related to IRI scores. Victim empathy was not related to IRI scores. Justifications and acceptance of sexual and interpersonal violence were negatively correlated to EC and positively correlated to PD. Those who committed violent offenses reported more EC and PT; however, a generally hostile temperament was negatively related to these scales. Group differences were not found when contrasted with respect to a history of sexual or physical victimization or denial. Researchers using the IRI with male adolescent sex offenders should be cautious of the influence of age and socially desirable responding.

adolescent sexual offender Interpersonal Reactivity Index empathy 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SAFE-T (Sexual Abuse: Family, Education, & Treatment) Program, Thistletown RegionalCentre for Children and AdolescentsTorontoCanada

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