Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Examining Empathy, Cognitive Distortions, and Social and Physical Aggression in Delinquent and Non-Delinquent Adolescents

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Marie Tisak (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

John Tisak (Committee Co-Chair)

Third Advisor

Robert Carels (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Stephen Cernkovich (Committee Member)


In this study, relationships among empathy, cognitive distortions, social, physical, and violent aggression, and delinquency in adolescents were examined. In particular, interaction effects between empathy and cognitive distortions were studied with regard to their ability to predict different types of aggression. The results supported one interaction between the perspective-taking component of empathy and cognitive distortions that was a unique predictor of social aggression. Cognitive distortions had very strong relationships with social, physical, and violent aggression. Male delinquents indicated the highest levels of social and violent aggression, while non-delinquent participants endorsed more moderate physical aggression than the delinquent population. Older participants endorsed more social aggression than their younger counterparts; however, females' endorsement of social aggression decreased with age while males' increased with age.