Emotion recognition and perceived social support in young people who offend
Wilcox, Maria Roos Elizabet
Young people who offend (YPwO) appear stuck in a cycle of adverse experiences, low social support and emotional skill deficits, yet their needs have not been extensively\ud researched. The current study aimed to develop an understanding of alexithymia, the ability to recognise others’ emotions and perceived social support in YPwO and to explore the relationships between these variables.\ud \ud Fifty YPwO were recruited through three Youth Offending Teams and fifty age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status and academically-matched young people without a known offending history were recruited from a college and youth service in the same geographical area. All participants completed a demographic questionnaire, the Toronto Alexithymia scale, a Facial Emotion Recognition Task, a Verbal Emotional Prosody Recognition Task\ud and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support.\ud \ud Statistical analyses failed to show that, relative to the control group, YPwO had higher levels\ud of alexithymia, lower levels of perceived social support or lower ability to recognise others’ emotions. However, relative to the control group, YPwO did show significantly lower ability to recognise fear through verbal prosody. Of interest, children who had been ‘looked after’, rather than those with offending status in isolation, were found to show significant difficulties\ud in identifying and describing feelings, ability to recognise others’ emotions and reported lower levels of perceived social support, particularly from family. In addition, significant correlations were found between i) alexithymia and perceived social support, ii) the ability to recognise others’ emotions and perceived social support, and iii) the ability to recognise emotions from facial expressions and the ability to recognise emotions through verbal prosody.\ud \ud The current study supports the view that offending behaviour is the result of a complex interplay of individual, developmental, and social factors. Theoretical and clinical implications of the study findings are discussed and potential areas for future research are suggested.
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