skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 202265 Find in a Library
Title: Importance of Offense Characteristics, Victimization History, Hostility, and Social Desirability in Assessing Empathy of Male Adolescent Sex Offenders
Journal: Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment  Volume:15  Issue:4  Dated:October 2003  Pages:347-364
Author(s): Tracey Curwen
Date Published: October 2003
Page Count: 18
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article investigates the reliability and validity of three scales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) within a clinical sample of sex offenders.
Abstract: There is a lack of empirical research regarding empathic abilities of sex offenders. A lack of empathy may contribute to the ability to abuse others. This study investigated differences in empathy, as measured by the IRI, of male adolescent sex offenders on the basis of their endorsement and use of violence, justifications of offenses, and own history of victimization. The initial scale analyses included 187 males and 94 females that completed the IRI during an assessment in an outpatient, community-based sexual abuse treatment program. This sample included 96 sex offenders aged 12-69; 61 offenders and victims of sexual abuse, aged 12-44; 56 victims of sexual abuse, aged 11-46; and 68 family members of an identified offender or victim of sexual abuse, aged 12-58. The IRI was designed to measure cognitive and affective empathy on four scales, three of which were included in this study. The Empathic Concern (EC) scale assesses the extent to which respondents experience warmth, compassion, and concern for another. The Personal Distress (PD) scale assesses the respondent’s own negative emotions after witnessing another’s unpleasant experience. The Perspective-Taking (PT) scale measures the tendency to consider the viewpoint of another in real-life circumstances. The results indicate that the scales do not accurately measure victim empathy and, although some scales are related to established measures of empathy, each scale achieved only moderate internal consistency. Response to the IRI are related to age and socially desirable responding, and studies using the IRI with clinical samples must compensate for these variables. Results of the study indicate that the degree of sexual violence is related to empathy and that the tendency to blame others and endorse violence is related to personal discomfort in emotional situations. Empathy scores were not related to offenders’ denial or history of victimization. Empathy deficits of adolescent male sex offenders may be specific to their victims or to specific situations. 2 tables, 73 references
Main Term(s): Emotional disorders; Sex offenders
Index Term(s): Child emotional abuse and neglect; Interpersonal maturity; Juvenile Sex Offenders; Offenders; Psychological evaluation; Testing and measurement
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.