Attraction Versus Action in Pedophilic Desire: The Role of Personality Traits and Childhood Experience

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Abstract

Objective:

Comparison of pedophilic individuals who do and do not refrain from sexually engaging with children may offer critically important information regarding the differential contributors to pedophilic attraction versus behavior. This study compared 5 traits that are potentially contributory to pedophilic attraction or behavior in both minor-attracted persons (MAPs) who refrain from sexually engaging with minors (nonacting MAPs) and those who have acted on pedophilic attractions and subsequently entered the criminal justice system (forensic MAPs).

Methods:

Subjects included 195 nonacting MAPs, 50 forensic MAPs, and 60 healthy controls. Data on nonacting MAPs were drawn from an online survey, and data on the other 2 groups were based on prior in-person evaluations. Measures included the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-II (MCMI-II), Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11), the MAP Questionnaire, and the Sexual History Questionnaire (SHQ).

Results:

Both MAP groups scored higher than healthy controls on the domains of socially inhibited personality traits, propensity toward cognitive distortions, and subjects’ own childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Forensic MAPs scored higher than nonacting MAPs on the CSA domain, but the 2 MAP groups differed little on the other 2 domains. Forensic MAPs also scored higher than the other 2 groups on the antisocial domain, whereas nonacting MAPs did not differ from controls on this measure. Nonacting MAPs scored higher than controls on impulsivity.

Conclusions:

Antisocial personality traits may be a primary driver of pedophilic behavior that is unrelated to pedophilic attraction. Socially inhibited personality traits and propensity toward cognitive distortions are associated with pedophilic attraction, although the direction of causation is not clear. CSA seems to increase the risk of both attraction and behavior.

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