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Child Sexual Molestation: Research Issues

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 1997
24 pages
Publication Series
This paper reports on efforts to develop and validate an empirically based model of the agents and factors that lead to child sexual abuse and to design and test statistical methods for assessing reoffense risk.
Important findings of this research include: (1) There is no single profile that accurately describes or accounts for all child molesters; (2) Sexual focus in child molesters has two independent dimensions: intensity of pedophilic interest and exclusivity of the sexual preference for children; (3) Most victims of childhood sexual abuse do not go on to become child molesters; (4) A history of impulsive, antisocial behavior is a well-documented risk factor for certain predatory, extrafamilial child molesters; (5) Early childhood experiences, such as a high turnover in primary caregivers, may interfere with development of viable, age-appropriate adult relationships, making more likely the selection of children as sexual targets; (6) Physiological arousal to children often accompanies a sexual interest in them; (7) An empirical classification typology for child molesters is being developed by NIJ-supported researchers; (8) Recidivism rates across studies are confounded by many factors; (9) A 25-year follow-up study of 111 extrafamilial child molesters provided extensive data from criminal justice records and rationally derived composites of variables; (10) Although optimal treatment interventions have yet to be identified, cognitive behavior therapy, antidepressant and antiandrogen medication has reduced recidivism among child molesters; and (11) Intensive community-based supervision and management of child molesters is essential to reduce sexual victimization rates. Figures, tables, notes

Date Published: June 1, 1997