An Examination of Factors Related to the Cognitive and Affective Empathy Levels of Adjudicated Youth

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With the advent of increased juvenile delinquency in our nation, the need for prevention and rehabilitation is paramount. Juvenile delinquent acts are becoming more serious and violent with offenders perpetrating at younger ages. Analysis suggests an increase in juvenile crime in the near future (Stone, 2000). Pinpointing the cause of delinquency is an arduous task because of the many contributing factors (e.g., impulsivity, aggression, low intellect, poor family attachment, drug, and alcohol abuse). By changing the emotional deficits found in beginning delinquency, the likelihood of developing delinquent behavior may be impeded. Research indicates that adolescents who commit crimes are lacking ... continued below

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Broom, Ellen Wildemann August 2000.

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  • Broom, Ellen Wildemann

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With the advent of increased juvenile delinquency in our nation, the need for prevention and rehabilitation is paramount. Juvenile delinquent acts are becoming more serious and violent with offenders perpetrating at younger ages. Analysis suggests an increase in juvenile crime in the near future (Stone, 2000). Pinpointing the cause of delinquency is an arduous task because of the many contributing factors (e.g., impulsivity, aggression, low intellect, poor family attachment, drug, and alcohol abuse). By changing the emotional deficits found in beginning delinquency, the likelihood of developing delinquent behavior may be impeded. Research indicates that adolescents who commit crimes are lacking in empathy (e.g., Aleksic, 1975; Cohen & Strayer, 1996; Ellis, 1982; Gibbs, 1987; Marcus & Gray, 1998), thus, promoting empathy may be an avenue for prevention and rehabilitation. This study examined the levels of empathy of adjudicated youth in four juvenile correctional facilities in Texas. Using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), empathy levels of 170 youth were examined. Youth in the study demonstrated low levels of empathy. The study found that empathy levels of adjudicated youth were differentiated by incarcerating facility, IQ, type of offense, disability status, and phase level of a re-socialization training program. Age was not found to be a significant factor for differentiating empathy levels. Youth demonstrated similiar empathy levels at three of the four incarcerating facilities. However, empathy scores were still below average. IQ ranges were differentiated by the IRI, and found to be lower than normed scores. Type of committing offense was discriminated and found to indicate low empathy levels. Youth without an identified disability scored lower than subjects with emotional/behavioral disorders (E/BD) and youth with learning disabilities (LD). This may reflect the pattern of underidentification of juveniles in correctional facilities (Nelson, Rutherford, & Wolford, 1987). Phases of Re-socialization is an instructional therapuetic program with an empathy component used at the Texas Youth Commission correctional facilities. Data from the study indicated that youth at higher phase levels demonstrated increased empathy. Much of the data are inconsistent, thus establishing the need for further research. A deeper understanding of the impact of each factor (e.g., incarcerating facility, age, IQ, type of offense, disability status, phase) may be accomplished by further research. However, data from this study is consistent with previous research (e.g., Daberman, 1999; Ellis, 1982; Gibbs, 1987; Lee & Prentice, 1988), indicating a link between juvenile delinquents and empathic deficits.

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  • August 2000

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  • Sept. 25, 2007, 8:59 p.m.

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  • April 26, 2016, 5:55 p.m.

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Broom, Ellen Wildemann. An Examination of Factors Related to the Cognitive and Affective Empathy Levels of Adjudicated Youth, dissertation, August 2000; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc2656/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .