Personality Pathology Moderates the Relationship between Length of Time in Treatment and Levels of Empathy in Incarcerated Male Sex Offenders

Open Access
Shoss, Naomi Esther
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 16, 2006
Committee Members:
  • Aaron Lee Pincus, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Peter Andrew Arnett, Committee Member
  • Karen Gasper, Committee Member
  • Eric Silver, Committee Member
  • treatment
  • sex offenders
  • moderator effects
  • borderline personality organization
  • narcissism
  • psychopathy
  • individual differences
  • personality
  • general empathy
  • victim empathy
Abstract This study examined whether different pathological personality traits (psychopathic, narcissistic, and borderline) moderated the relationship between time in treatment and empathy in a sample of incarcerated male sex offenders (N=58). Empathy was explored on a global level as well as on the level of specific victim groups. Principal components analysis with oblique rotation was conducted using three measures of empathy. A three factor solution for empathy was revealed: general empathy, empathy for children and hostility for women. Hierarchical linear regression analyses demonstrated that certain DSM-IV, Axis II personality traits were significant moderators of the effects of time in treatment on levels of general and victim empathy. There was a positive main effect found for length of time in treatment for victim empathy. This effect was much smaller for general empathy. This effect was moderated by pathological personality traits, such that offenders with higher levels of pathological traits did not exhibit greater empathy with more time in treatment. In contrast, offenders with lower levels of pathological traits exhibited increased empathy as treatment length increased. There are direct implications for clinical practice and treatment planning for sex offenders.