Empathy for Children Scale

By Eleanor Hall,2014-05-08 21:51
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Empathy for Children Scale

Empathy for Children Scale


    1 Gerard A. Schaefer, Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine,

     CharitéUniversitätsmedizin Berlin, Freie und Humboldt-Universität

     zu Berlin, Germany

     Steven Feelgood, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Technical

     University, Dresden, Germany

    Empathy can be defined as one individual's reactions to the observed experiences of another (Davis, 1983). A four-stage model of empathy by Marshall and colleagues (1995) includes emotion recognition, perspective taking, emotional response, and appropriate action. Several measures have been developed to assess general empathy, such as the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Davis,1983), Hogan’s Empathy Scale (Hogan, 1969), or

    the Emotional Empathy Scale (Mehrabian & Epstein, 1972).

    Sexual offenders typically display a lack of empathy for their victims (Marshall, 1997). Child sexual abuse offenders’ empathy deficits are greatest for their own victims compared to nonsexual offenders (Marshall, Hamilton, & Fernandez, 2001). Contact sexual offenders score lower than child

     1Address correspondance to Gerard A. Schaefer, Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, University Clinic Charité Campus Mitte, Freie und Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Luisenstraße 57, D-10117 Berlin-Mitte, Germany; e-mail:


    pornography offenders in victim empathy (Bates & Metcalf, 2007; Elliott, Beech, Mandeville-Norden, & Hayes, 2008).

    The Empathy for Children Scale (ECS) was developed to measure an individual’s cognitive and emotional empathy for child victims. Three scenarios are used, assessing empathy with respect to an “accident victim,” a “stranger child sexual abuse victim,” and “(fantasized) own child sexual abuse victim. The ECS can be used as a research tool in examining respective empathy deficits of various subsamples. It can also serve as a clinical tool for therapists in treatment planning and treatment outcome assessment. Description

    The ECS is based on the Child Molester Empathy Measure (CMEM; Fernandez & Marshall, 2003; Fernandez, Marshall, Lightbody, & O?Sullivan, 1999), in that it uses the same three scenarios to assess empathy for child victims using two subscales (cognitive and emotional empathy) for each scenario. However, as the ECS was specifically developed for administration with pedophilic nonoffenders, the original “own child sexual abuse victim” scenario was modified to offer a fantasized own victim. Changes to the scenarios also improved the comparability of the scenarios. Furthermore, the ECS assesses data regarding age and gender of (fantasized) own victim and imagined general sexual abuse victim. With 80 items rated on 5-point Likert-type scales, the ECS is less complex to rate for the respondents, as well as more economic to administer (the CMEM has 150 items and uses 10-point Likert-type scales). Higher scores (e.g., on the emotional victim empathy


    subscale indicate less emotional victim empathy deficits). Due to its design, it may be used in both forensic and nonforensic settings. Therefore, its use is not limited to individuals with known victims, such as convicted sexual offenders. The instrument is available in English, French, and German (Feelgood & Schaefer, 2005).

    Additional material pertaining to this scale, including information about format, scoring, reliability, and validity is available in Fisher, Davis, Yarber, and Davis (2010).

Fisher, T. D., Davis, C. M., Yarber, W. L., & Davis, S. L. (2010). Handbook

     of Sexuality-Related Measures. New York: Routledge.


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