No differences found on components of empathy in matched groups of offenders and non offenders with learning disabilities

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The researchers in this UK study set out to look at empathy in sex offenders with learning disabilities, with a view to exploring the differences between this group and non offenders with learning disabilities. They used specific measures of the components of empathy. They compared the scores of 21 sex-offenders and 21 non-offenders with learning disabilities.

The two groups were matched for age, gender and IQ. The measure used was the  Test of Emotional Perception.

The results suggested no differences between the two groups across the components of empathy. They did find though that those in the sex offenders group who had received treatment performed better on tasks of emotion recognition, emotion replication and response decision than those in the non-offender group.

The authors conclude from this brief study that further research is needed before any firm recommendations regarding treatment can be made.

Assessing Components of Empathy in Sex- Offenders with Intellectual Disabilities, Ralfs S & Bealil N in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25: 50–59.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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