The Adolescent Empathy Paradox and Juvenile Offending
O'Neill, Katherine Krushinski
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I propose the persistent gender gap in juvenile offending is linked to adolescent orientation to a gendered generalized other and empathic development. Empathic ability is inversely associated with juvenile offending and mediates the effect of gender on offending. Empathic expression, however, threatens boys’ membership claims to the gendered generalized other and supports girls’ membership claims to the gendered generalized other. I present a symbolic interactionist framework and use the longitudinal Denver Youth Survey to analyze the age-varying relationships between and among gender, empathic development, and juvenile offending. I find support for the hypothesis that males exhibit, on average, lower levels of empathy across the life course than do females and that empathy mediates the effect of being male on offending. I also find empathic ability is inversely related to offending, and significantly decreases fraud and theft offending, but not victimless or violent offending.
- Sociology