Date of Award

1998

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Frederick A. Kosinski, Jr.

Second Advisor

Nancy J. Carbonell

Third Advisor

Wilfred G.A. Futcher

Abstract

Problem. Empathy training is considered a critical part of a sex offender program. Research has revealed that sex offenders are deficient in empathy, which may be a factor that contributes to their abusive behaviors. There is a surprising lack of research on empathy program outcomes, and there is a need to determine whether program formats are producing the desired outcomes. Research supports that sex offenders are deficient in perspective-taking, which is considered a critical part of the empathy process. The purpose of this research is to evaluate the inclusion of perspective-taking training in a traditional empathy-training module.

Method. Two groups of 10 sex offenders were administered a traditional empathy training module. One group was selected randomly to receive an additional three sessions of perspective-taking training prior to the onset of the traditional empathy module. The group with additional perspective-taking training was predicted to have: (1) increased empathy skills, (2) decreased endorsement of cognitive distortions predisposing child sexual abuse and rape, and (3) a decreased use of narcissistic defenses. Six tests were administered before and after the empathy modules to measure these constructs. Analysis of Covariance was used to compare the means between the groups. An interview was performed with each subject after the empathy training, and a qualitative analysis was performed.

Results. No differences appeared on the six pretests and posttests administered to the groups. The qualitative results revealed that additional perspective-taking training to the offenders' naturalistic setting. The additional training may have contributed to a decrease in narcissistic features, increased awareness of societal denial of sexual crimes, and a utilization of perspective taking to decrease aggression. The additional training may have also created more significant emotional experiences for the group.

Conclusions. Results reveal that perspective-taking training may be beneficial addition to a traditional empathy-training module More research is needed to confirm this finding.

Subject Area

Sex offenders--Rehabilitation.

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