Remorse has long been considered important to the juvenile justice system. However, the nature of this construct has not yet been clearly articulated, and little research has examined its associations with other theoretically and legally relevant variables. The present study was intended to address these issues by examining relationships among remorse, psychopathology, psychopathic characteristics, and recidivism in a sample of adolescent offenders (N = 97) using the theoretically and empirically established framework of guilt and shame (Tangney & Dearing, 2002). Findings indicated that guilt was negatively related to recidivism, psychopathic characteristics, anger problems, depression, and anxiety. Furthermore, guilt provided incremental validity beyond established risk factors for offending and existing measures of “remorse” in the prediction of recidivism. In contrast to guilt, shame was positively related to recidivism, behavioural features of psychopathy, and numerous mental health problems. Moreover, the externalization of blame that is considered an important feature of shame provided incremental validity in the prediction of recidivism beyond established risk factors for offending as well as existing measures of “remorse”. These results suggest that assessment of guilt, shame, and externalization of blame may be of greater utility than “remorse”, and also underscore these features as potentially important treatment targets for adolescent offenders.
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Thesis advisor: Viljoen, Jodi L.
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