Measuring Empathy in a German Youth Prison: A Validation of the German Version of the Basic Empathy Scale (BES) in a Sample of Incarcerated Juvenile Offenders

E.J.E. Heynen*, G.H.P. Van der Helm, G.J.J.M. Stams, A.M. Korebrits

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Lack of empathy is related to aggression, delinquency, and criminal offense recidivism. The present study examined construct validity and reliability of the German version of the Basic Empathy Scale (BES) in a sample of 94 detained German male juvenile offenders (aged 14–26). A confirmatory factor analysis with a two-factor model of affective and cognitive empathy showed a good fit to the data. The factor structure of the original 20-item scale, however, could not be fully replicated in the German juvenile prison sample. Therefore, the scale was reduced to 12 items. Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficients were good for both affective and cognitive empathy. Concurrent validity of the BES was demonstrated only for cognitive empathy, which was significantly associated with callous-unemotional traits. Although results are promising, a replication study is needed to test concurrent, convergent, divergent, and predictive validity of the German version of the BES as well as test–retest reliability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-346
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


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