Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment [saj] pp916-sebu-469146 July 16, 2003 13:59 Style ﬁle version Nov 28th, 2002
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 15, No. 4, October 2003 (
The Importance of Offense Characteristics,
Victimization History, Hostility, and Social
Desirability in Assessing Empathy of Male
Adolescent Sex Offenders
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 reliabil-
ity 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(ages12–19)completedabatteryofpsychometricmeasures 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. Jus-
tiﬁcations 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.
KEY WORDS: adolescent sexual offender; Interpersonal Reactivity Index; empathy.
Aspects of this study were presented at the 6th International Conference on the Treatment of Sexual
Offenders, Toronto, Ontario. Portions of this research were originally conducted as a requirement for
a Master of Arts degree, University of Toronto, 1997.
SAFE-T (Sexual Abuse: Family, Education, & Treatment) Program, Thistletown Regional Centre for
Children and Adolescents, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at SAFE-T Program, Thistletown Regional Centre
for Children and Adolescents, 15 Warrendale Cowet, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M9V IP9; e-mail:
2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation