Examining pedophilic interest as a risk factor for sexual re-offending

By Ian McPhail (@IanVMcPhail on twitter)

One of the central preoccupations of forensic psychology is identifying what psychological and social characteristics may contribute to re-offending.  This concept is straightforward and important.  When someone commits an offence, is caught and convicted, and becomes involved in the criminal justice system, we want to understand what separates those who return to criminal behaviour and those who do not.  When we understand this, people working with individuals who have committed sexual offences can help them limit the influence of these problems in their lives and increase the chance that they will desist from crime.

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Examining the latent structure of pedophilic interest

By Ian McPhail (@IanVMcPhail on twitter)

In the last five years, there has been a series of attempts by forensic and sex scientists to examine and elucidate the latent structure of sexual interests in prepubescent children, or, pedophilic interest. In this blog post, I will discuss what latent structure is and what the recent science has been finding. In two upcoming blog posts, I will examine the ramifications of this recent latent structure research.

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Challenging societal negativity towards paedophiles

Craig Harper and Ross Bartels

It’s becoming increasingly common nowadays to pick up a newspaper and read a headline about a ‘monstrous paedophile’ who has committed the latest chilling sexual offense against a child. It’s also difficult to avoid being confronted by justice campaigns or politicians using these examples of evidence to promote ever more punitive responses to the issue of sexual offending. Inherent in this struggle is the conflating of two distinct (though related) groups: child molesters (who commit sexual offences against children) and paedophiles (who have a sexual attraction towards children but who may or may not act on these interests). In confusing these two groups, media outlets (1) do a disservice to those non-offending paedophiles who actively live each day with the intention to not act on their sexual interests, and (2) perhaps unknowingly undermine academic and practical efforts to prevent the sexual abuse of children.

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Evaluations of sexual aggression and sexually aggressive behavior against adults

Chantal A. Hermann

It seems like such a simple idea, how you evaluate something, in part, determines your behavior towards that ‘something’. For example, people who think coffee is delicious, probably tend to drink more coffee than people who think coffee is disgusting. Social psychology theory and research support this idea; evaluations, in part, predict behavior. Empirical evidence suggests this is true whether the evaluations are immediate (implicit evaluations) or deliberative (explicit evaluations), and that both the automatic and deliberative evaluations are important in understanding behavior. From this research, Dr. Kevin Nunes, myself, and our colleagues hypothesized that how someone evaluates sexual aggression would predict, in part whether or not they would engage in sexually aggressive behavior.

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Towards Informed Public Policies to Prevent Sexual Abuse

Kelly Babchishin

Sensational offences, although horrendous and worthy of concerns, are not representative of the majority of sexual offences committed in the world. Why should we care about this statement? Recently, Julia Mesler, George Anderson, and Cynthia Calkins published a chapter in Advances in Psychology and Law (Volume 1) on sexual offender policy (available here). They propose that public misconception about the majority of individuals who have committed sexual offences is one of the driving forces behind public policies that do more harm than good in terms of public safety.

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Disclosing a sexual interest in children to others: The experience of a non-offending pedophile

Ian McPhail

While writing a review paper on non-offending pedophiles, some of the research I reviewed discussed a difficult aspect of having a sexual interest in children: the choice of whether to disclose a sexual interest in children to others or remain hidden.  During interviews with researchers, pedophilic men described that making this choice was a struggle for them, that the decision to disclose or not was fraught with anxiety about the potential interpersonal and other consequences.  Part of the struggle for these men was the fear that in disclosing their interests, others would end the relationship or at the very least, it would impact the relationship in a negative way.  Indeed, if we were to imagine that a friend of ours, or a partner, or a family member disclosed to us they experienced a sexual and emotional attraction to children, I think the majority of us would struggle with this disclosure, even if the struggle was simply knowing how to support the person while maintaining our relationship with them.

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Female child sexual abusers – how are they getting away with it in organisational contexts?

Andrea Darling

Hardly a week goes by nowadays when there isn’t a newspaper article covering the latest female teacher to ‘engage in a sexual relationship’ with a pupil. Examples can be found in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

By female child sexual abusers in organisational contexts, I’m referring to those women in positions of trust with children and young people and abuse within the organisations and institutions in which they work, either in paid positions or voluntarily. This includes teachers, social workers, nurses, sports coaches, nursery workers, and care staff for example.
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Sex offending runs within families

Kelly M. Babchishin

We (Långström, Babchishin, Fazel, Lichtenstein, & Frisell, 2015) have recently published a large population-based study and found that sex offending runs within families. Based on all men convicted of any sexual offence (N = 21,566) in Sweden from 1973 to 2009, we found that brothers of men convicted of sex offences were five times more likely to commit the same types of crimes than population controls and that sons of men convicted of sex offences were four times more likely.

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