Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Psychology and Social Science

Faculty

Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Professor Alfred Allan

Second Advisor

Dr Ricks Allan

Abstract

Previous researchers have alluded to an association between violence and alexithymia. Nemiah (1978) and H. Krystal (1979) were the first to report sudden outbursts of rage and or aggression in clinical observations of non-offender people with alexithymia. Limited research on the subject matter conducted since the time of those reports demonstrates that alexithymia is prevalent among male violent offenders. Much of the previous research, however, was performed with early assessments methods of alexithymia which often failed to measure all aspects of alexithymia. Furthermore, the exact nature of the association between violent offending and alexithymia is unclear. Given the high costs of violent offending to both society and victims it would appear necessary to assess for the presence of alexithymia among male violent offenders in order to provide appropriate intervention and treatment. The aim of this research was to determine the exact nature of the association between male violent offending and alexithymia. The Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) was employed for this purpose. As the scale had not previously been standardised in Australia, the aim of the first research question was to examine the utility of the cut-off scores and stability of the factor structure with a Western Australian community sample. This was achieved by a comparison of the means of the original Canadian standardisation sample with the means of the Western Australian sample (n = 323). A Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was employed to assess the factor structure. The Canadian cut-off scores proved to be applicable with Western Australian participants and stability of the factor structure was confirmed. Through the analysis, however, some psychometric weaknesses of the scale were revealed. The second research question was aimed at determining the prevalence of alexithymia among male violent offenders in Western Australia. A sample of 79 violent offenders incarcerated in prisons around Western Australia was recruited for Study Two. The results of a chi-square analysis for Study Two demonstrated an association between male violent offending and alexithymia. The aim of the third research question was to determine the exact nature of the association. For this purpose, all the TAS-20 scores of the violent offender sample, males in the community sample and a non-violent offender sample (comprising of 67 male participants) were compared by means of a Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) and post-hoc Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). There were statistically significant differences between community males and both the offender groups, with higher TAS-20 scores for the offender groups. The differences between the two offender groups were not statistically significant. Furthermore non-violent offenders were just as likely as violent offenders to score above the cut-off score on the TAS-20. The results suggest that there is an association between not only alexithymia and violent offending, but also alexithymia and offending in general. The consistent results for all the TAS-20 factor scores further suggest that it is alexithymia in general, rather than a specific aspect of alexithymia that is associated with offending. The current results are discussed in terms of forensic, clinical and research implications.

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