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Title: Clinical characteristics of sex offenders
Author: Porter, Shauneen
ISNI:       0000 0004 7658 8760
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2014
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Background: Sexual violence against children across different mediums, both online and offline is a prevailing problem. Yet there is a dearth of research on clinical characteristics of these contact child sex offenders, and in particular Internet child sex offender groups. Primarily previous research has focused on risk and risk management. In contrast, recently defining clinical characteristics has become a research focus, with clinical needs and deficits such as social anxiety and loneliness being investigated as potential psychological factors that precipitate and maintain offending. Despite this, these clinical characteristics have not been assessed in this offender group in Scotland. It is on this basis that this thesis endeavours to explore these features within the child sex offender population. Method: A systematic review of the literature was performed to identify if social anxiety is associated with male contact child sex offenders. Secondly, the empirical research study employed an exploratory quantitative design and to inform our understanding of the psychological characteristics of community Internet child sex offenders (N =31) when compared with non -offenders (N = 31). It was hypothesised that social anxiety, loneliness and obsessive compulsive disorder would be greater in the offender sample. Mann Whitney U tests and Kendal -tau correlations were used to investigate the hypotheses between the groups. Initially, contact child sex offenders and violent offenders were recruited for comparison, however due to insufficient numbers were excluded from the final study. Results: The systematic review suggested eight of the eighteen studies showed an inconclusive statistical association between social anxiety and sexual offending against children. Of the remaining ten studies, one study had a strong statistical association, four studies had a moderate statistical association and five studies were weak statistical association. The empirical research study found that social anxiety and loneliness were statistically significantly greater in Internet child sex offenders than non -offenders. Additionally, correlations between online cognitions dependency (problematic internet use) and social anxiety and loneliness were significant, indicating a possible function of problematic Internet use within this offender group. Conclusions: Overall, the findings from the systematic review indicate there is lack of strong statistical association studies between social anxiety and sex offending, therefore, the results may have been tempered by other factors due to methodological inconsistencies across the studies. The empirical study indicated a statistically significant difference between the groups on social anxiety and loneliness, with Internet child pornography sex offenders were statistical significantly greater in these deficits than non -offenders. However, clinically only one fifth of the ICSO group reached the clinically significant cut off for social anxiety. Additionally, there may not be a direct relationship due to several possible confounding factors. The role of problematic Internet use may increase clarity on the clinical characteristics of this offender group and warrants further investigation. The implications of this research suggest that treatment may require a focus on social needs and isolation within this group. Strengths and limitations of the systematic review and the research were discussed with implications for clinical practice and future research also being proposed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available