Trait empathy and criminal versatility in sexual offenders

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Title Trait empathy and criminal versatility in sexual offenders
Author Smallbone, Stephen Walkley; Wheaton, Julia; Hourigan, Donna
Journal Name Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment
Editor Judith V. Becker
Year Published 2003
Place of publication United States
Publisher Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers
Abstract Associations between trait empathy and criminal versatility were examined in a sample of 88 incarcerated adult sexual offenders (29 extrafamilial child molesters, 26 intrafamilial child molesters, and 33 rapists). Considerable criminal versatility was observed, with 60% of the whole sample and 88% of recidivist offenders having previous convictions for nonsexual offenses. Regression analyses showed significant associations between trait empathy and nonsexual offense convictions, but not between trait empathy and sexual offense convictions. More specifically, greater involvement in violent offending (e.g., assault, robbery) was associated with lower levels of empathic concern and higher levels of fantasy. Greater involvement in miscellaneous (e.g., traffic, drug, public order) offending was associated with lower levels of empathic concern. We argue that insufficient theoretical and empirical attention has historically been given to criminal versatility among sexual offenders, especially among child molesters. In particular, we suggest that developments in empathy training for sexual offenders may benefit from distinguishing needs of criminally versatile and non-versatile sexual offenders. More knowledge about trait empathy in sexual offenders, and about situational factors that may override otherwise normal empathic responsiveness, is needed.
Peer Reviewed Yes
Published Yes
Alternative URI
Volume 15
Issue Number 1
Edition 2003
Page from 49
Page to 60
ISSN 1079-0632
Date Accessioned 2004-05-11
Language en_AU
Research Centre Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance
Faculty Faculty of Arts
Subject PRE2009-Criminology
Publication Type Journal Articles (Refereed Article)
Publication Type Code c1

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