W. Eric Filleter, Carleton University
Liam Ennis, Integrated Threat and Risk Assessment Centre
Kevin L. Nunes, Carleton Univeristy
William D. Murphy, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
In 2015 I received the ATSA poster award for my research on sexual deviance and general criminality factors amongst adolescents who had committed sexual offenses. The purpose of this article is to briefly present this research.
I am currently in the process of completing my Master’s degree under the supervision of Dr. Kevin Nunes, and through him was able to connect with Drs. Liam Ennis and William Murphy.
Drs. Nunes, Ennis and Murphy allowed me the opportunity to work with them to analyze a dataset that contained information on a large sample of 488 male adolescents who had committed sexual offenses.
As the dataset had so much information, the decision was made to carry out an exploratory analysis to see if there were any significant differences within this group of adolescents.
Specifically, due to their relevance in the literature (see Daversa & Knight, 2007; Knight & Sims-Knight, 2004; Seto, 2008), we decided to examine whether there were differences in terms of sexual deviance and general criminality factors (e.g., antisociality) on the basis of whether they had been sexually abused or not, and whether they had been physically abused or not.
Generally speaking, we hypothesized that we would see differences between the adolescents who had experienced childhood sexual abuse and those who had not in terms of their sexual deviance and general criminality, with those who experienced abuse presenting as more sexually deviant and generally criminal. Further, we hypothesized that we would see differences between the group of adolescents who had experienced childhood physical abuse and those who had not in terms of their general criminality.
In the current study, variables that were used as indicators of sexual deviance included age at first sexual offense, number of sexual offences, pedophilic interest, sexual obsession, and various paraphilic interests, that were measured using the Screening Scale for Pedophilic Interest (Seto & Lalumiere, 2001) and the various subscales of the adolescent form of the Multiphasic Sex Inventory (Nichols & Molinder, 1984).
In terms of general criminality factors the following variables were examined: general antisociality, which was measured using the Childhood and Adolescent Taxon Scale (Quinsey, Harris, Rice, & Cormier, 1998); delinquent personality traits, which was measured using the Psychopathic/Deviate subscale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (Butcher, Williams, Graham, Archer, Tellegen, Ben-Porath, & Kaemmer, 1992); aggressiveness, which was measured using the Interpersonal Behavioural Scale (Mauger, Adkinson, Zoss, Firestone, & Hook, 1980); and number of non-sexual arrests were included. Participants’ scores on these variables were obtained through clinical files, collateral sources, and self-report questionnaires.
The results of the current study suggest that experiencing childhood sexual abuse was generally associated with the presence of more indicators of sexual deviance and general criminality.
In fact, those who had been sexually abused exhibited more sexual deviance and exhibited more general criminality with the exception of the number of non-sexual arrests.
Additionally, experiencing childhood physical abuse was associated with more general antisociality; however, contrary to our original hypothesis, no significant differences were found between the physically abused group and their non-abused counterparts in terms of any of the other general criminality measures (i.e., aggressiveness, delinquent personality traits, and number of non-sexual arrests).
Finally, as we hypothesized, no differences were detected between the physically abused group and the non-physically abused group in terms of their sexual deviance.
The results of the current study indicate that experiencing childhood sexual abuse was associated with more sexual deviance and general criminality, amongst adolescents who had committed sexual offenses. Further, the experience of childhood physical abuse was associated with more general antisociality.
As such, the results of the current study do seem to be consistent with prominent theories in this field of research, which purport that early life adversity (i.e., sexual and physical abuse) can lead to the development of antisocial characteristics (i.e., sexual deviance and general criminality), which can in turn lead an individual to perpetrate sexually aggressive acts (e.g., Daversa & Knight, 2007; Knight & Sims-Knight, 2004; Seto, 2008).
However, as the results of the current study are correlational, no causal inferences can be drawn in support of the aforementioned theories. True experiments that allow for causal interpretations to be made are extremely difficult to conduct in this field of research, particularly when childhood sexual and physical abuses are present. However, despite this challenge, further longitudinal research should examine whether and how childhood abuse may lead individuals directly or indirectly to sexual offending.
I would like to thank ATSA for honouring me with the poster prize at the 2015 conference.
I would also like to thank Drs. Nunes, Ennis and Murphy for allowing me the opportunity to work on this project with them.
Butcher, J.N., Williams, C.L., Graham, J.R., Archer, R.P., Tellegen, A., Ben-Porath, Y.S., & Kaemmer, B. (1992). Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-Adolescent Version(MMPI-A): Manual for administration, scoring and interpretation. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Daversa, M. T., & Knight, R. A. (2007). A Structural Examination of the Predictors of Sexual Coercion Against Children in Adolescent Sexual Offenders. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34(10), 1313-1333.
Knight, R. A., & Sims-Knight, J. E. (2004). Testing an Etiological Model for Male Juvenile Sexual Offending Against Females. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 13(3-4), 33-55.
Mauger, P.A., Adkinson, D. K., Zoss, S. K., Firestone, G., & Hook, D. J. (1980). Interpersonal Behavior Survey (IBS), Western Psychological Services: Los Angeles.
Nichols, A.R., & Molinder, I. (1984). Multiphasic Sex Inventory. 437 Dowes Dr., Tacoma, WA., 98466.
Quinsey, V. L., Harris, G.T., Rice, M.E., & Cormier, C. A. (1998). Violent offenders: Appraising and managing risk. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Seto, M. C. (2008). Pedophilia and sexual offending against children: Theory, assessment, and intervention. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Seto, M., & Lalumiere, M. (2001). A Brief Screening Scale to Identify Pedophilic Interests Among Child Molesters. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 13(1), 15-25.