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New Measures of Defensiveness, Empathy, and Cognitive Distortions for Sexual Offenders Against Children

NCJ Number
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment Volume: 10 Issue: 1 Dated: January 1998 Pages: 25-36
M McGrath; S Cann; R Konopasky
Date Published
12 pages
Treatment of child molesters emphasizes three interrelated constructs: denial, empathy, and cognitive distortions; this study tested whether child molesters have these psychological traits.
Thirty child molesters, 30 nonsexual offenders, and 30 controls were administered three new tests of denial, empathy, and cognitive distortions anonymously; 30 other child molesters were instructed to "fake good," and 44 child molesters who were seeking parole were also tested. The Sexual Social Desirability Scale (SSDS) measures attitudes about sex, sexual activities, and intimate sexual relationships. All offender groups attributed significantly more positive characteristics to themselves than did controls. All sexual offender groups denied significantly more negative characteristics than did the control and nonsexual offender groups. Even sexual offenders asked to "fake good" did not significantly differ in denial from those sexual offenders who answered anonymously or those in assessment for parole. For sexual offenders, denial was not significantly affected by demand characteristics. The Empathy (Empat) scale tested for lack of empathy specific to sexual abuse victims and general lack of empathy. Sexual offenders, even those "faking good," showed less sexual abuse empathy than controls. In contrast, sexual offender scores of general empathy equaled controls' general empathy scores. The Child Molester Scale (CMS) was developed in an attempt to reduce the effects of socially desirable responding. Sexual offenders assessed for parole reported significantly more cognitive distortions regarding adult-child sexual activity than did the control group, but not less than nonsexual offenders. The SSDS, Empat, and CMS were significantly correlated. 3 tables and 26 references


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