An Internet Study of Men Sexually Attracted to Children: Correlates of Sexual Offending Against Children

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Abstract

We conducted an Internet survey of 1,102 men sexually attracted to children concerning their history of adjudicated offenses related to child pornography and sexual contact with children. Most of the men reported no offenses, but their rate of offenses was much higher than that expected for adult-attracted men. Correlates of offending are consistent with a strong role of the cumulative effects of temptation, especially age. Older men, men who had repeatedly worked in jobs with children, men who had repeatedly fallen in love with children, and men who had often struggled not to offend were especially likely to have offended. Attraction to male children, relative attraction to children versus adults, and childhood sexual abuse experiences were also strong predictors of offending. In contrast, permissive attitudes regarding child-adult sex and frequent indulgence in sexual fantasies about children were not significantly related to offending. Our findings represent the first large study of offending among men sexually attracted to children who were not recruited via contact with the legal system. Because of methodological limitations, our findings cannot be definitive. Reassuringly, however, results are generally consistent with those from the most pertinent existing studies, of recidivism among convicted sex offenders.

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