U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Childhood maltreatment experiences and problematic sexual outcomes in adult males who have sexually offended: Further evidence of the potency of male caregiver psychological abuse

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect Volume: 96 Dated: 2019
Date Published

This study aimed to extend previous findings by investigating the association between psychological abuse by a male caregiver and problematic sexual outcomes in a sample of adult males who had sexually offended.


Although research on the developmental antecedents of sexual offending has tended to focus on sexual abuse, recent research in juveniles and adults who have sexually offended suggests that psychological abuse perpetrated by a male caregiver may be a particularly important factor in the development of problematic sexual interests and behaviors.

Participants in the current study were 529 adult males incarcerated for sexual offenses, 21 percent of whom were civilly committed. Childhood maltreatment and problematic sexual outcomes were assessed using the Multidimensional Assessment of Sex and Aggression, a contingency-based inventory that assesses domains related to sexual aggression. Hierarchical regressions were calculated by examining the association between childhood abuse types and sexual outcomes. The findings indicate that childhood sexual abuse was associated with child sexual (β = .247, p < .001) and other paraphilic interests (β = .189, p < .001). Male caregiver psychological abuse also emerged as marginally associated with child sexual interest (β = .100, p = .059), even after controlling for other abuse types. These results partially replicate recent findings in a juvenile sample and challenge conventional developmental theories of sexual offending by suggesting that male caregiver psychological abuse may play a role in the etiology of child sexual interest among males who have sexually offended. This study also suggests a possible gender symmetry effect moderating the developmental consequences of abuse. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019