An exploratory study of autistic-like traits and empathy deficits in male offenders and adolescents

Ang, Lip Tat (2016) An exploratory study of autistic-like traits and empathy deficits in male offenders and adolescents. MSc(Res) thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This present study seeks to investigate the relationship between autistic-like traits and empathy deficits among male adolescent offenders and non-offenders.


59 non-offenders and 11 offenders, aged 16-25 with no official diagnosis of autism, were recruited to complete self-reported questionnaires that measured their level of autistic-like traits, general empathy, and empathy towards specific victims in hypothetical scenarios. Due to the limited sample size, non-parametric tests were favoured to compare the scores on the different measures between offenders and non-offenders.


Offenders were found to have higher levels of autistic-like traits than non-offenders. However, this significance was only marginal. Offenders scored significantly lower in their general empathy scores than non-offenders. No difference was found between both groups’ empathic level towards specific victims in the hypothetical scenarios. In addition, regression analysis revealed that both offending status and autistic-like traits were significant predictors of general empathy scores. However, there was no interaction effect between autistic-like traits and offending status on participants’ empathy.


Offenders were generally less empathic than non offenders. Moreover, level of autistic-like traits appeared to significantly influence one’s ability to

recognize and understand others’ feelings and perspectives. Due to the study’s limited sample size, generalisability of the results is an issue. Further research is recommended to determine if different sub-groups of offenders (i.e., non-sexual and sexual offenders) differ in autistic-like traits and empathy levels; and if empathy is a causal risk factor of one’s offending.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (MSc(Res))
Supervisors: Daley, D.
Keywords: Autistic-like traits, Empathy and offending
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 38878
Depositing User: Ang, Lip
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2017 11:21
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2017 17:33

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