nextgenforensic

The truth about stories: How men desist from sexual offending

Ian McPhail

“The truth about stories is that’s all we are.” This is how Thomas King, America-Canadian First Nations author, begins his 2003 Massey Lectures.  That phrase has resonated with me since I read it over ten years ago; in fact, it’s never strayed too far from my mind.  There is a power in stories: we are drawn to tell stories and construct fictions about ourselves and our world.  In this post, my interest is in exploring some of the stories told by men who desist from sexual offending.

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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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Stigma and non-offending pedophiles

Ian McPhail

People who have pedophilic interests and do not act on these interests present a complex challenge to clinicians.  There is growing evidence that a pedophilic orientation is associated with pre-natal factors, suggesting this orientation may start with events present prior to birth.  On this blog, we were fortunate enough to have the co-founders of Virtuous Pedophiles write a post about the existence of non-offending pedophiles and some of the painful challenges these individuals face due to having a sexual orientation they did not choose.  As part of the shame and fear of disclosing pedophilic interests, some non-offending pedophiles do not make these disclosures, even to mental health professionals.  A consequence of not feeling safe to disclose a pedophilic orientation, these people are left to cope with and manage their sexual attractions on their own.  As a budding mental health professional, I find this state of affairs unacceptable.  There are a number of reasons why I am unsatisfied with this status quo, but one I find pressing and that research is beginning to examine with non-offending pedophiles is stigma.

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The flexibility of pedophilic sexual interests

Ian McPhail

Can someone’s sexual interest in children decrease and their sexual interest in adults increase?  This sounds like a complicated and vital question that professionals in the business of treating sexual offenders should be asking themselves most mornings before they head to work.  Not surprisingly, this is a question that psychologists and psychiatrists have been preoccupied for a long time, with more modern examples emerging in the 1960s and 1970s.  However, more recently, a series of recent articles have dug into this complicated and thorny issue anew.  And perhaps even more interesting, this debate has spilled over into the media, with a recent radio broadcast in Canada featuring two of the main individuals in the recent debate speaking to the issue at hand: can we change pedophilic interests?

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Emotional congruence with children: Recent developments in an old concept

Ian McPhail

In the past number of years, a few colleagues and I have embarked on a line of research examining emotional congruence with children in sexual offenders against children.  The set of psychological processes typically included within this concept highlight the perceived intimate nature of relationships males who commit sexual offences against children have with children and their understanding of these relationships.  Basically, emotional congruence with children suggests the notion that some men feel more comfortable around children than adults, think of children as their friends, are emotionally attracted to children, and may even yearn for the trappings of childhood.

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More on pluralism, bloat, and usefulness: A response to Tony Ward’s post

Ian V. McPhail

To start my reply to Prof. Ward’s response, it is probably best to outline where he and I agree on some of the topics covered on the blog and in his recently published work. First, we both agree that there is a need for more and better conceptual work in forensic psychology. Ward and Beech, as well as Mann and colleagues, make the point that the time has come for more in-depth theoretical work to deepen our understanding of the psychological constructs that cause sexual violence. Mann et al. are right to suggest that the field is probably at a point when empirical research has identified a good swath of psychological constructs that are ripe for theoretical development. And Prof. Ward is right to point out that more conceptual work needs to be done, that the current state of affairs can be aptly described as impoverished, and that conceptual work is necessary for progress.

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Response to Ian McPhail – ‘Depth and usefulness in theories of sexual violence’

Tony Ward

In his recent nextgenforensic post commenting on my paper on theory construction in the sexual offending area (Ward, 2014) Ian McPhail identified a number of weaknesses that he believed would result in poor theory construction.  His major concern is my suggestion that integrative pluralism should guide theory construction will result in ‘bloated, ill-defined theories of sexual violence’. I take it that McPhail thinks I suggest that all researchers should pursue integrated theories in their own research programs, each attempting to build their own integrated (pluralistic) theory. That is incorrect. What I am suggesting is that the forensic/correctional research community should work in a more coordinated manner.

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Depth and usefulness in theories of sexual violence

Ian V. McPhail

Recently, Prof. Tony Ward made a few recommendations on how researchers and theorists can contribute to theory development and advance our understanding of the causes of sexual violence (article can be downloaded here). In this post, I will examine two of the main arguments raised by Ward.  My purpose here is to point out some limitations to his arguments and propose some ideas that I think will also be fruitful in developing explanations of the causes of sexual violence that help us do what we want to do and solve practical problems (i.e., prevent sexual violence and treat sexual offenders).  So this post will be thoroughly Jamesian (read: pragmatist) in approach.  And from the start, the reader should know that since this is a critique of a conceptual work, the post will necessarily be somewhat technical, so buckle up for some heavy conceptual lifting!

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New Article: Tony Ward on dynamic risk factors and integrative pluralism

Ian V. McPhail

Tony Ward has recently published two interesting conceptual articles in the journals Psychology, Crime & Law and the Journal of Sexual Aggression.  You can freely download the full text here and here.

In the coming days, I will be posting some commentary on the article by Tony Ward, as I think he raises some interesting ideas but misses out on some potentially fruitful avenues of conceptualizing dynamic risk factors as constructs involved in sexual offending.  My commentary will explore some of the concepts raised by Dr. Ward, critique their perceived value, and offer some alternative ways forward in this very important non-empirical work within forensic psychological science.  Stay tuned!

 

Outing sexual offenders in prison

Ian V. McPhail

Individuals who commit sexual crimes are a vilified group, both in the community and in prisons, which shouldn’t be a surprising statement. Most of us are familiar with methods used to “out” these individuals in the community, especially in places with public sex offender registries. We likely have read stories of posters being put up in neighbourhoods in the US in order to “out” these individuals and warn those living there that this person represents a threat (when in fact a not-so-familiar refrain holds more true: perpetrators are more likely to be know by the victims than they are to be strangers).

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