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Molesters' motives may include repressed sexuality.


CHICAGO -- Many factors motivate the actions of child molesters, including feelings of inadequacy, repressed sexuality, and childhood experiences, a small study showed.

In the study, the motivations of 18 child molesters receiving treatment were assessed. All subjects were adult men who had admitted to and been convicted of a hands-on sexual offense against a child. The offenders ranged in age from 24 to 73, with a mean age of 50. All molesters knew their victims, Natasha Knack reported at the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law annual meeting.

The goal of the qualitative research was to better identify the motivations behind offenders who sexually abuse children in order to more effectively treat them, said Ms. Knack, forensic research assistant at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre.

"One of the things that makes treating sex offenders more complicated is that they are a very diverse group," she said. "Even child molesters specifically are very heterogeneous, and they have different motivations for offending. It seems the general public assumes there's basically one motivation for committing these offenses, and that's sexual gratification. While that's something that came out in the research, that is definitely not the only motivation that we found."

Ms. Knack conducted in-depth interviews with each offender and asked questions pertaining to what factors led to their crimes. Factors that contributed to the abuse fell into categories of explicit or implicit motivations. Explicit motivations included sexual gratification with such underlying themes as opportunity and feelings of inadequacy among adults. Seeking intimacy and self-identifying as a teacher were some explicit, nonsexual gratification motivations that were found.

Implicit motivations included childhood experiences such as personal abuse, repressed sexuality, and a lack of sexual information. Other implicit motivations found were life experiences such as poor romantic relationships with adults and problems with substance abuse.

Ms. Knack noted that the absence of sexual information among victims and offenders when they were children played a part in the abuse. For example, some offenders admitted choosing victims who were naive about sex, had parents who did not openly discuss sex, and would be unlikely to tell their parents of the abuse. At the same time, some offenders noted they had developed misconceived ideas about sex as children, had parents who did not discuss the subject, or had learned about sexual topics from friends.

"Children need to know they can talk to their parents [about sex] if they need to. That makes them more likely to disclose abuse that happens," she said.

Caption: Natasha Knack says the goal of qualitative research is to better identify the motivations of child sex offenders in order to effectively treat them. To view an interview with Ms. Knack, scan the QR code.


Key clinical point: Parents should be encouraged to talk with their children about sex and sexuality.

Major finding: Key contributors to sex abuse against children by adults are childhood experiences, repressed sexuality, lack of sexual information as a child, and feelings of inadequacy among adults and peer groups.

Data source: A qualitative research study of 18 men aged 24-73 who were getting treatment, and had admitted to and been convicted of a hands-on sexual offense against a child.

Disclosures: The University of Ottawa Medical Research Fund supported the study. On Twitter @legal_med


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Title Annotation:MENTAL HEALTH
Author:Gallegos, Alicia
Publication:Family Practice News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 15, 2014
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