Group climate and empathy in a sample of incarcerated boys

G. H.P. Van Der Helm*, G. J.J.M. Stams, J. C. Van Der Stel, M. A.M. Van Langen, P. H. Van Der Laan

*Corresponding author for this work

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This study examined the influence of group climate on empathy in a Dutch youth correctional facility in a sample of 59 incarcerated delinquent boys. Higher levels of empathy have been shown to be associated with less delinquent and more prosocial behaviour and may therefore be vital for successful rehabilitation and recidivism reduction. Although empathy was originally considered to be a trait, recent neurobiological research has shown that empathy has state-like properties in that levels of empathy change in response to the social environment. This study showed that differences in group climate were associated with cognitive empathy in juvenile delinquents but not with affective empathy. It is speculated that inmates' state-depressive feelings and anxiety could diminish the effects of prison group climate on affective empathy. The discussion focuses on group dynamics in youth correctional facilities. A positive prison group climate in a youth correctional facility could turn out to be a major factor contributing to effectiveness of secure institutional treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149-1160
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012

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