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Psychopathological predictors of pedophilic sexual interest in a sample of convicted child sexual offenders

Carvalho, J1

1: , Portugal

Objective(s): Pedophilic sexual interest is an important risk factor predicting criminal recidivism among child sexual abusers. Despite its important role in the treatment of child sexual offenders, there is a lack of knowledge on the nature of pedophilic sexual interest. Accordingly, the aim of this study was to test the predictive role of a set of personality and psychopathology dimensions in pedophilic sexual interest, in a sample of convicted child sexual abusers.

Material and Method(s): Forty-three men (inmates) convicted for child sexual abuse were evaluated according to some personality and psychopathological dimensions: trait-affect, levels of trait impulsiveness, personality (according to the Big Five model), and state psychopathological symptoms. Child sexual abusers completed the self-report questionnaires (assessing the personality and psychopathology dimensions), in an interview-style, conducted by the researcher. Pedophilic sexual interest was measured with the Screen Scale for Pedophilic Interests, which is completed using the offenders’ official criminal records.  

Result(s): Findings revealed that the personality traits (Big Five model) and state psychopathology had significant effects on sex offenders’ pedophilic sexual interest. More specifically, lower extroversion and higher conscientiousness, as well as higher anxiety and personal sensitivity, significantly predicted pedophilic sexual interest among child sexual abusers.

Conclusion(s): Findings suggest that some personality dimensions, as well as state emotional symptoms may be involved in the dynamics of pedophilic sexual interest. More precisely, the current significant personality predictors relate to the lower propensity to be social, denoting solitary and self-absorbed individuals, as well as to an obsessive-style, related to the need of self-discipline and planned behavior. In addition, the emotional symptoms relate to the cognitive and somatic markers of anxiety (including sudden fear, panic attacks) as well as to feelings of personal inadequacy, inferiority, and self-depreciation. These features not only tap into the internalizing spectrum that is known to characterize child sexual offenders, as compared with rapists, but also suggest that pedophilic sexual interest may emerge within a larger spectrum relating to social interaction deficits and anxiety.   


Work supported by industry: no.

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