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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There is evidence to support the use of Western developed violent risk assessment in China: Responding to Zhou et al. (2015)

Seung Chan Lee and Karl Hanson

The recent article published by Zhou and his colleagues (2015) concluded that there was little evidence to support the use in China of violent risk assessment instruments developed in Western countries. They made two claims: 1) the predictive validity estimates (AUCs) were noticeably lower in China than in Western countries, and 2) the values of predictive validity found in Chinese studies were poor. We believe that the evidence presented in the article does not support either of their claims. This post outlines our rationale for this belief.

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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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Incest: What we know (and don’t know)

Lesleigh Pullman

Although this topic definitely does not make for good dinner conversation, attempting to understand the causes of sexual offending against children is an ongoing endeavour. But we’ve done pretty well so far. Much is known about the causes of child sexual abuse generally. Two key motivational factors that have been highlighted are atypical sexual interests and antisociality. However, much less is known about the causes of incest. Incestuous sexual offending is puzzling not only from a social and moral perspective (i.e., the incest taboo), but also from a biological perspective. Inbreeding depression (what happens when we have offspring with close relatives) increases the likelihood of birth defects and infant mortality. Presumably, we have evolved strong mechanisms for avoiding incest because sex with our relatives is bad for the survival of our genes!

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On Depth: Conceptual and methodological considerations in meta-analysis

Ian V. McPhail

Recently, a methodological approach to examining forensic psychological constructs has been appearing on the pages of clinical psychology, sexology, and child abuse prevention journals and at professional conferences. These studies all make use a meta-analytic methodology I have started to call “depth meta-analysis.” By depth meta-analysis, I mean a meta-analysis that tries to drill down as deeply as possible into the existent literature pertaining to a single psychological construct. By restricting itself to a single construct, a meta-analysis can answer a plethora of disparate research questions germane to the construct of interest. In addition, an approach such as this unlocks the potential of moderator analyses, a set of powerful statistical tools in meta-analysis. In the field of forensic psychology focusing on sexual violence, I have come to see some of the main research questions regarding psychological constructs as being:

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Why do we keep rehashing the sex offender treatment effectiveness debate?

Kelly M. Babchishin

There are a lot of meta-analyses and review articles examining the effectiveness of treatment programs for sex offenders. The most recent meta-analysis by Grønnerød and colleagues (2014) did not find that treatment programs reduced the risk of reoffending among sex offenders against children. These authors arrived at the same conclusion that Långström et al. (2013) presented in their systematic review a few months earlier: there is a lack of quality studies, and the limited “good quality” studies do not provide overwhelming support for the effectiveness of sex offender treatment programs. Of course, not all treatment programs are created equal.

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