Published:  2019-10-02

Psychopathic Traits and Empathic Functioning in Detained Juveniles: Withdrawal Response to Empathic Sadness

Authors:  Esther L. de Ruigh, Lucres M. C. Jansen, Robert Vermeiren, Arne Popma

Tags:  Detained juveniles, autonomic nervous system, empathy, psychopathic traits, state/trait

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In order to gain insight in empathic deficits in juveniles with severe antisocial problems and psychopathic traits, self-reported psychopathic traits and trait empathy were assessed in 416 detained male juveniles. State empathy was assessed by self-reported empathic and autonomic nervous system (ANS) responses to sad film clips. Psychopathic traits were significantly negatively correlated with empathy, although not with ANS responses. Individuals reporting no empathy showed significantly less heart rate withdrawal compared to individuals reporting higher empathy. This implies that physiological responses may be helpful in identifying juveniles with severely impaired empathic functioning, even in a severely antisocial sample.