The role of empathy in family violence

Fitzmaurice, Elizabeth (2015). The role of empathy in family violence. University of Birmingham. Foren.Psy.D.

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This thesis explores the role of empathy in family violence, specifically child maltreatment (CM) and intimate partner violence (IPV). Chapter 1 introduces the construct of empathy, its development and relevance to violence. Chapter 2 then explores the relationship between empathy and CM in a systematic literature review of 17 studies. Results found that maltreating parents demonstrate significantly lower empathic capacity and that this relationship is stronger for cognitive than affective empathy. Chapter 3 presents a critical analysis of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Davis, 1980) demonstrating that the measure has good reliability, validity and a range of normative data. Limitations of the measure include the validity of the Fantasy subscale and it being a questionnaire-based assessment. Chapter 4 presents a research report exploring the presence of empathy and emotional recognition skills in IPV (n=30), violent (n=20) and non-violent (n=20) offenders. Results found that IPV participants were more likely than NV offenders to interpret fearful faces as sad. Only the IRI personal distress scale (PD) showed a significant relationship with emotion recognition. The thesis conclusions are presented in Chapter 5 which identifies that empathy plays a role in family violence, although its influence in CM and IPV appears to be different.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Foren.Psy.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Foren.Psy.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Psychology
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman


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