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Title: The child molester : separating myth from reality
Author: Kirby, Stuart
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 1993
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There exist contradictory perceptions of child molesters. Whereas the criminal justice system treats them as similar to other criminals the academic literature views them as victims of a pathological disorder emphasizing the need for treatment. A deeper exploration of the academic literature reinforces this distinction. Instead of researching and categorising the similarities or differences between child molesters and other criminal offenders the literature has implicitly accepted that no commonalities exist by postulating only variations within child sexual offenders. It is argued in this thesis that this constricted approach has missed existing communal characteristics between the groups. The thesis is proposed that child molesters should be viewed as exploitative and abusive individuals for whom sexual deviancy with a young vulnerable victim forms part of a diversity of symptoms demonstrating the way they relate to other individuals within society. This is in contrast to the academic literature which views him as an individual with only one distinguishing trait, an exclusive sexual motivation towards children. In order to explore this further all detected sexual offenses committed on children aged between 5-12 years for a three year period (1987-89) which were reported to the Lancashire Constabulary were compiled. Victim, offence, and offender details were then content analyzed for all 416 offenses, and evaluated using a number of statistical tests. The initial analysis did not support previous conceptual classifications that offenders could be distinguished by a sexual preference for children. Instead the offenses exhibited similarities to other criminal offenses which allowed their discrimination on a variety of criteria. These comprised: age and gender of victim; age and gender of offender, relationship of offender to the victim; type of offence and how it was committed; and the previous convictions and the antecedents of the offender. It was further hypothesized that offenders could further be discriminated as to their degree of invasiveness towards the victim. Ninety-seven of the offenses were then content analyzed over 59 variables relating specifically to offence behaviour. A multi-dimensional scaling procedure known as Smallest Space Analysis (Lingoes, 1973) revealed a faceted structure to child molestation behaviour, distinguishing offenders between levels of aggression and intimacy. The facet structure provided a model to test and confirm the social interactive model proposed by Canter, 1989. Using Chi-square analysis it was established that those who related to the child in the most abusive fashion were revealed to have distinct characteristics; the most exploitative offenders showed criminal recidivism and an inability to sustain relationships. In contrast the intimate, socially motivated offender, who demonstrated the most apparent empathy towards the victim had less criminal history, and a superior ability to form non-deviant relationships. It was hypothesized that a linear continuum relating to levels of abuse existed between these two extremes of offender behaviour. The ability to differentiate child sex offenses on a number of clearly defined offence behaviour criteria and to then ascribe offender characteristics was subjected to a field validation test. The subsequent profile was found accurate on all 22 variables in relation to an offender who indecently assaulted a number of pre-pubertal boys. Aggressively orientated behaviour was then described in terms of an "anti-social personality" whereby indiscriminate sexual deviancy appeared as just another symptom of impulsive criminal behaviour. In contrast "intimate orientated behaviour" was described in terms of relationship inadequacy. The continuum of behaviour between the two extremes was explained in terms of coercive and abusive behaviour explained within the parameters of a multi-disciplinary criminological model. In conclusion the theoretical benefits are discussed of a psychological framework which allows offenses to be understood in terms of observable criteria. Similarly the practical benefits for criminal investigation are also addressed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available