The Influence of Professionals' Empathy on Parents' Anxiety in Cases of Juvenile Criminology.

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    • Abstract:
      In situations of juvenile delinquency, abuse, or neglect, determination of child custody relies on interviews with parents. This study aims to examine the effects of the interviewer's empathy on parents' anxiety, and to explore how parents experience these situations. A measure of anxiety was applied to 41 parents under evaluation for child custody before and after the assessment interview. Professionals' empathy was rated by both parents and professionals after each appointment. Parents participated in semistructured interviews. Data were analyzed through statistical and content analyses. The decrease in anxiety was significantly greater for parents who perceived professionals as "perfect" than for parents who perceived professionals as "less than perfect" in empathy. Parents' and professionals' empathy scores correlated positively, but the association between professionals' self-rated empathy and parents' anxiety was nonsignificant. Reactions to the justice system's intervention emerging in the semistructured interviews were "unjustifiable intrusion," "disconcerting information," and "reality confirmation." Each associated differently with parents' expectations for the assessment interview (respectively, that the process be over quickly, that it be over successfully, and that help start quickly). Our results support the important effects, from parents' perspectives, of empathy in assessment interviews in the context of juvenile criminology. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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