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Assessing alexithymia in forensic settings: Psychometric properties of the 20‐item Toronto Alexithymia Scale among incarcerated adult offenders

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Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health

Published online on


["Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, Volume 31, Issue 1, Page 31-43, February 2021. ", "\nAbstract\n\nBackground\nAlexithymia is a trait involving difficulty identifying feelings (DIF), difficulty describing feelings (DDF) and externally orientated thinking (EOT). It is a risk factor for criminal behaviour. It is commonly assessed with the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS‐20), but the psychometrics of the TAS‐20 have not been tested across the range of offender populations, and it has been suggested it might be unsuitable in incarcerated offenders.\n\n\nAim\nTo establish the psychometrics of the TAS‐20 among incarcerated offenders.\n\n\nMethods\nFactorial validity was examined using confirmatory factor analyses, and the invariance of this factor structure was tested against a published community sample. Reliability coefficients were calculated.\n\n\nResults\nOne hundred and forty six incarcerated offenders were recruited. The factor structure of the TAS‐20 was invariant across the samples. The intended factor structure composed of DIF, DDF and EOT factors performed well overall (with a reverse‐scored method factor added), but six EOT items had low factor loadings. The total scale score and DIF and DDF subscales had acceptable reliability, but EOT did not.\n\n\nConclusions\nOur results suggest that the TAS‐20 functions similarly in offender and community samples. Its total scale score, and DIF and DDF subscale scores can be used confidently, but the assessment of externally oriented thinking may not be adequate with this scale alone. In sum, the TAS‐20 can facilitate robust assessment of alexithymia in closed criminal justice settings as well as in the wider community.\n\n"]