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Testing the “Sexually Abused-Abuser Hypothesis” in Adolescents: A Population-Based Study

  • University of Zurich / Canton of Zurich


A long-standing belief in the literature on sex offenders is that sexually victimized youths are at increased risk of becoming sex offenders themselves. The present study tested the link between past sexual abuse, either with or without contact, and sexually offending behavior in a representative sample of male and female adolescents while controlling for other types of abuse, mental health problems, substance use, and non-sexual violent behaviors. Self-reported data were collected from a nationally representative sample of 6,628 students attending 9th grade public school in Switzerland (3,434 males, 3,194 females, mean age = 15.50 years, SD = 0.66 years). Exposure to contact and non-contact types of sexual abuse was assessed using the Child Sexual Abuse Questionnaire and sexually offending behavior by the presence of any of three behaviors indicating sexual coercion. Two-hundred-forty-five males (7.1 %) and 40 females (1.2 %) reported having sexually coerced another person. After controlling for non-sexual abuse, low parent education, urban versus rural living, mental health problems, substance use, and non-sexual violent behavior, male adolescents who were victims of contact sexual abuse and non-contact sexual abuse were significantly more likely to report coercive sexual behaviors. Females who experienced contact or non-contact sexual abuse were also found at increased risk of committing sexual coercion after controlling for covariates. The present findings demonstrate a strong relationship between past sexual abuse, with and without physical contact, and sexual-offending behavior in male and female adolescents. Reducing exposure to non-contact sexual abuse (like Internet-based sexual exploitation) should become a new area of sexual violence prevention in youths.
Testing the‘Sexually Abused-Abuser Hypothesis’in Adolescents:
A Population-Based Study
Marcel Aebi Markus A. Landolt Christoph Mueller-Pfeiffer Ulrich Schnyder
Thomas Maier Meichun Mohler-Kuo
Received: 19 May 2014 /Revised: 18 October 2014 / Accepted: 10 November 2014
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York 2015
Abstract A long-standing belief in the literature on sex offend-
ers is that sexually victimized youths are at increased risk of becom-
ing sex offenders themselves. The present study tested the link
between past sexual abuse, either with or without contact, and
sexually offending behavior in a representative sample of male
and female adolescents while controlling for other types of abuse,
mental health problems, substance use, and non-sexual violent
behaviors. Self-reported data were collected from a nationally
representative sample of 6,628 students attending 9th grade
public school in Switzerland (3,434 males, 3,194 females, mean
age =15.50 years, SD =0.66 years). Exposure to contact and
non-contact types of sexual abuse was assessed using the Child
Sexual Abuse Questionnaire and sexually offending behavior
by the presence of any of three behaviors indicating sexual coer-
cion. Two-hundred-forty-five males (7.1 %) and 40 females
(1.2 %) reported having sexually coerced another person. After
controlling for non-sexual abuse, low parent education, urban ver-
sus rural living, mental health problems, substance use, and non-
sexual violent behavior, male adolescents who were victims of
contact sexual abuse and non-contact sexual abuse were signif-
icantly more likely to report coercive sexual behaviors. Females
who experienced contact or non-contact sexual abuse were also
found at increased risk of committing sexual coercion after con-
trolling for covariates. The present findings demonstrate a strong
relationship between past sexual abuse, with and without phys-
ical contact, and sexual-offending behavior in male and female
adolescents. Reducing exposure to non-contact sexual abuse (like
Internet-based sexual exploitation) should become a new area of
sexual violence prevention in youths.
Keywords Sexual victimization Sexual abuse
Sexual coercion Juvenile sex offender
According to a recent meta-analysis worldwide prevalence rates
for child sexual abuse (CSA) are 7.9 and 19.2 % among male and
female adolescents in community and student samples (Pereda,
Guilera, Forns, & Gomez-Benito, 2009). There is no consensus
among researchers as to what defines CSA. Some only consider
abuse that involves actual physical contact, whereas others use a
broad range of sexual abusive behaviors with and without phys-
ical contact (Mohler-Kuo et al., 2014). Nowadays, sexual abuse
can also be committed online via computers and other media
devices. When considering non-contact sexual abuse (e.g., sexual
M. Aebi (&)
University Clinics of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of
Zurich, Neptunstrasse 60, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland
M. A. Landolt
Department of Psychosomatics and Psychiatry, University Children’s
Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
M. A. Landolt
Department of Child and Adolescent Health Psychology, Institute of
Psychology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
C. Mueller-Pfeiffer U. Schnyder
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital
Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
C. Mueller-Pfeiffer T. Maier
Center of Education and Research (COEUR), Psychiatric Services of
the County of St. Gallen-North, Wil, Switzerland
C. Mueller-Pfeiffer
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
M. Mohler-Kuo
Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich,
Zurich, Switzerland
Arch Sex Behav
DOI 10.1007/s10508-014-0440-x
harassment via the internet) prevalence rates of CSA increase to
17.2 and 40.2 % for male and female youth, respectively (Mohler-
Kuo et al., 2014). There is evidence from clinical and popula-
tion-based studies that, relative to non-abused youths, those who
have been sexually abused (most studies combine contact and non-
contact sexual abuse) are at higher risk for both physical and men-
tal health problems (e.g., Fergusson, Horwood, & Lynskey, 1996;
Irish, Kobayashi, & Delahanty, 2010; Maniglio, 2009) but are
also at increased risk for re-victimization (Bramsen, Lasgaard,
Koss, Elklit, & Banner, 2012). One large population study exam-
ined outcomes of non-sexual abuse, non-contact sexual abuse,
contact sexual abuse without penetration and contact sexual abuse
with penetration in childhood. They found that more severe forms
of sexual abuse were associated with more severe psychopatho-
logical and poorer socioeconomic outcomes in adulthood (Fer-
gusson, McLeod, & Horwood, 2013).
A long-standing belief in the literature on sex offenders is that
victims of child sexual abuse are also more likely to sexually
coerce another person. The link between the experience of sex-
ual victimization and subsequently committed sexual perpetra-
tion is also known as‘the sexually abused abuser hypothesis’
(Seto et al., 2010) or the ‘victim-to-victimizer cycle’’ (Glasser
et al., 2001).
Evidence for the sexually abused abuser hypothesis comes
mainly from forensic studies based on adult and adolescent sex
and non-sex offender samples. Two large meta-analyses of adult
and adolescent offenders, respectively, reported a 3.4 and 2.8
times higher prevalence rate of sexual abuse in sex offenders com-
pared to non-sex offenders (Jespersen, Lalumiere, & Seto, 2009;
Seto & Lalumiere, 2010). Additionally, sexual victimization in
childhood was found to be associated with repeated sexual offend-
ing and sexual recidivism in male adolescents (Carpentier &
Proulx, 2011; Dennison & Leclerc, 2011) but not in adults
(Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005).
As female children are more likely to have experienced sex-
ual abuse and only a very small minority of sex offences are com-
mitted by females, sexual abuse seems less specifically related to
sexual coercive behaviors in adolescent girls or females. Never-
theless, some studies also found high prevalence rates for sexual
abuse histories and a longer duration of childhood sexual abuse in
female sex offenders compared to non-sex offenders and male
sex offenders, respectively (Christopher, Lutz-Zois, & Reinhardt,
2007; Van der Put, Van Vugt, Stams, & Hendriks, 2013). In sum,
there is limited evidence for the sexually abused-abuser hypoth-
eses in females.
Further studies analyzed sexual offending prospectively in
child victims of sexual abuse (Ogloff et al., 2012;Widom&
Ames, 1994). For example, Ogloff et al. found that sexually
abused children were almost 8 times more likely to be charged
for a sexual offense in later life compared to non-abused con-
trols. Salter et al. (2003) found that sexual offending often occurs
in the years following the occurrence of abuse.
One limitation of using clinical or criminal justice samples to
study the association between sexual victimization and sexual
perpetration is the lack of generalizability of the findings to the
general population. In fact, only victims who reported sexual
abuse to the authorities and only sex offenders who were charged
or convicted of their sexual offences can be included in clinical
or forensic studies. However, only a small proportion of child
sexual abuse is presumed to be reported to the authorities and only
a part of offenders is presumed to be arrested for their sexual abu-
sive behaviors (Gilbert et al., 2009; Maier, Mohler-Kuo, Landolt,
Schnyder, & Jud, 2013;Weinrott&Saylor,1991). Furthermore,
adolescent sexual offenders are more likely to be reported to the
police if they also had a history of non-sexual violence (Knight
&Prentky,1993). Criminal characteristics are possibly overrep-
resented among participants from studies in clinical or criminal
justice settings and may have influenced the findings. Therefore,
further research in population samples is needed (Seto et al.,
Few studies have tested the‘sexually abused abuser hypoth-
esis’’ in population-based samples. Three U.S. surveys of high-
school students support the link between contact CSA and sex-
ual aggression in adolescents (Borowsky, Hogan, & Ireland,
1997; Casey, Bednell, & Lindhorst, 2009; Lodico, Gruber, &
DiClemente, 1996). Adolescents who reported having been sex-
ually abused alsowere more likely to report sexual aggression
against a friend or dating partner. After controlling for drug use,
emotional problems and family/school variables, a history of CSA
remained a significant predictor of sexual aggr ession, with higher
odds ratios in boys (OR =2.36–2.71) than in girls (OR =1.51–
1.53). More recently, Seto et al. (2010) found similar results in
two male population samples of adolescents in Norway and Swe-
den: males with a history of CSA were more likely to report coer-
cive sexual behaviors, even when controlling for non-coercive
sexual behaviors (e.g., pornography use), substance use, and non-
sexual violent behavior.
Although the results of some population studies do support
the ‘‘sexually abused abuser hypothesis,’’ particularly for male
youths, further studies are needed that take into account risk fac-
tors for sexual coercion, such as exposure to non-sexual abuse
(Van der Put et al., 2013;Widom&Ames,1994), mental health
problems (Galli et al., 1999), substance use (Seto et al., 2010)
and non-sexual violent offending behavior (Aebi, Vogt, Plattner,
Steinhausen, & Bessler, 2012). Considering that the experience
of sexual abuse is associated with a wide range of psychosocial
outcomes (e.g., poor mental health, aggression, drug use) that by
themselves also increase the risk for sexual coercion, the inclu-
sion of additional risk factors becomes crucial for explaining
a more specific relation of sexual abuse and sexual coercive
Previous studies have focused mainly on contact sexual abuse
in childhood or adolescence, but have not considered non-
physical types of sexual abuse as possible predictors of sexual
Arch Sex Behav
coercion. Nowadays, adolescents are increasingly engaged in
new media and Internet-based communication platforms; and
with the rise of these new technologies, exposure to online forms
of non-contact sexual abuse has increased (Boonman, Grudzins-
kas, & Aebi, 2014; Mohler-Kuo et al., 2014). To our best knowl-
edge, no previous study tested the link between exposure to non-
contact sexual abuse and sexual offending behaviors. Therefore,
the present study aimed to test the‘‘sexually abused abuser hypoth-
esis’’ in a general population-based sample of adolescents.
We hypothesized that past exposure to either contact or non-
contact sexual abuse would be positively associated with sexual
coercion in both male and female adolescents, even after control-
ling for other risk factors.
Among victims of CSA, a close relationship with the offender
and the experience of severe forms of sexual abuse were found
related to later committed sexual coercion (Burton, Miller, & Tai
Shill, 2002; Christopher et al., 2007;Setoetal.,2010). We addi-
tionally examined whether multiple sexual abuse episodes, oral,
vaginal or anal penetration, abuse before age 12, abuse by a
stranger, or abuse by a family member predicted sexual coercion
in those youths who report contact sexual abuse.
Participants and Procedure
The present study was based on a nationally representative sample
of 9th grade students attending public schools in Switzerland. In
the spring of 2009, a sample of 10,000 pupils from 560 classes at
228 public schools was randomly drawn from the most updated
list of the Swiss Federal Bureau of Statistics. The probability pro-
portional to size (PPS) cluster sampling method was used to
select classes and schools, accounting for school size. Sampling
was stratified according to the seven regions and 26 cantons of
Switzerland. Approval from 26 ethics committees and 26 depart-
ments of education had to be obtained. While 25 out of 26 ethics
committees approved the study, four education departments did
not grant permission, mainly because of other school surveys that
were being done during the same period of time. This resulted in
the loss of 28 schools encompassing 63 classes. In those cantons
that approved the study, the principals of selected schools were
invited by letter to participate in the survey. After being contacted,
23 schools (48 classes) refused to participate, leaving a final sam-
ple of 177 schools with 449 classes. Due to the absence of some
students because of illness (n=537) and students’ individual
refusals (n=63), 6,841 students participated in the survey. Due
to computer-related problems, 15 questionnaires subsequently
were lost and 39 questionnaires excluded because of invalid data.
A further 159 participants were excluded because of missing
data on mental health problem scales (n=122, see below) and/
or sexual coercion (n=37). Therefore, the final sample consisted
of 6,628 participants (Total response rate 89.1 %; 3,434 male
youths, 3,194 female youths) with a mean age of 15.50 years
(SD =0.66 years). Of these youths, 4,931 adolescents (74.4 %)
were of Swiss nationality.
From September 2009 to May 2010, data were anonymously
collected using computer-assisted self-report questionnaires. Two
trained assistants were present during data collection to ensure
an atmosphere of privacy and provide technical support, if nec-
essary. The assistants also were instructed to keep an eye on stu-
dents, in order to detect signs of stress or discomfort. Following
completion of the questionnaire, the students received an infor-
mation sheet with a list of readily accessible institutions that pro-
vided help for victims of trauma. A more detailed description of
study procedures is available in previous publications (Landolt,
Schnyder, Maier, Scho
¨nbucher, & Mohler-Kuo, 2013;Mohler-
Kuo et al., 2014).
All students who were included in the present study provided
informed consent. Because all students wereolder than 14 years,
according to Swiss law, parental consent was not required for par-
ticipation in this anonymous school survey.
Sexual Coercion
Sexual coercion was assessed using three dichotomous ques-
tions thatcould be answered either‘‘yes’’or‘‘no.’The questions
were: (1) Have you ever force d someone else to undress himself/
herself or to show himself/herself naked against his/her will? (2)
Have you ever touched someone else’s private parts against their
will? (3) Have you ever urged someone else to do a sexual act,
even though that person did not want to? If any of these three
items was answered‘‘yes,’’ sexual coercion was coded as present.
Child Sexual Abuse
Past exposure to sexual abuse with or without physical contact was
assessed using the Child Sexual Abuse Questionnaire (Mohler-
Kuo et al., 2014). This self-report instrument consists of 15 ques-
tions to assess various forms of CSA. Life-time CSA and CSA over
the preceding 12 months can be assessed separately. The CASQ
was newly developed for the present study by taking into consid-
eration previous literature and instruments. The details of the
CSAQ development has been published elsewhere (Mohler-Kuo
et al., 2014). For the present study, life-time CSA was taken into
account. In addition, we considered CSA before age 12 in the
supplemental analyses. The first eight items of the CSAQ are re-
lated to sexual abuse without physical contact and include items like
‘have you been forced to show your private parts,’’‘‘have you been
sexually harassed by another person (either verbally, or by internet
chatting, telephone or text massages), or‘‘has anyone taken pictures
of your naked body against your will.’’ Another seven items are
elated to sexual abuse with physical contact and include items like
‘have you ever been touched in a sexual way against your will,’
Arch Sex Behav
‘has anyone tried to penetrate you vaginally or anally with his
finger or using any object,’’ and‘‘has anyone tried to penetrate you
vaginally or anally with his penis.’’ Exposure to sexual abuse with
contact was coded as present if ‘‘yes’’ was reported for any of the
seven related items. Sexual abuse without physical contact was
coded in a similar way, but only for those participants who were not
exposed to contact sexual abuse. Internal consistencies (Cronbach
alphas) were 0.7 for contact sexual abuse and 0.6 for non-contact
sexual abuse. As the events of contact and non-contact sexual abuse
may not be closely related to each other, the internal consistencies
of the corresponding CASQ scales were only moderate. Therefore,
we did not use sum scores of the contact and non-contact sexual
abuse in the present study. The agreement on the presence of sexual
abuse between the CASQ (for both, contact and non-contact sexual
abuse) and the sexual victimization score from the Juvenile Vic-
timization Questionnaire (JVQ; see below) was found to be in a
moderate range (Cohen’s kappa 0.41, p\0.001). The CASQ in-
cludes more items of sexual abuse than the JVQ.
Physical Violence and Child Maltreatment
The Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (JVQ, Hamby, Finkel-
hor, Ormrod, & Turner, 2005) was used to measure past exposure
to physical violence and/or maltreatment. The JVQ asks about
different forms of offense against youths covering five areas: (1)
conventional crime, (2) child maltreatment, (3) peer victimiza-
tion, (4) sexual victimization, and (5) indirect victimization. The
instrument had already demonstrated adequate test–retest re-
liability and construct validity in a U.S. national sample of 10 to
18-year old youths (Finkelhor, Hamby, Ormrod, & Turner, 2005).
For the present study, the physical assault composite score (ten
items, e.g., assaults with or without a weapon, prejudicial attacks,
date violence) and the child maltreatment score (five items, e.g.,
physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect) were considered. Both
were coded as present if ‘‘yes’ was responded to any of the re-
lated questions.
Demographic Variables
Parental education was assessed using two separate items mea-
suring paternal and maternal education on 5-point Likert scales
ranging from 1 (no vocational training) to 5 (a university degree).
Paternal and maternal scores were added together to create a sin-
gle summation score. If one parent’s education level was
unknown, the other parent’s score was doubled. If education
level was reported for neither parent, the score was coded as
‘‘ m i s s i n g . ’’ L o w p a r e n t a l e d u c a tion was categorized as ‘‘low’’if
the parental education summation score had a value of two or
three, and average to above-average otherwise. As the 627 (9.5 %)
cases with missing values for parental education did not differ
from those cases with average to above-average parental educa-
tion, with respect to sexual coercion (4.6 % vs. 4.0 %, v
p=0.45), missing cases were included in further analyses.
Living area was coded as‘urban’’ if the participant was living in
a community with more than 50,000 residents.
Mental Health
Mental health was assessed by means of the self-report version
of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). This mea-
sure of mental health problems in children ages 11–17 is com-
prised of 20 items relating to emotional symptoms, conduct prob-
lems, hyperactivity, and peer problems (Goodman, 1997). Reli-
ability and validity of the instrument was found sufficient (Good-
man, 2001). In the present analyses, scores falling within the
clinical range defined in the manual were considered clinically
Violent Behavior/Substance Use
Participants were asked if they had ever committed a robbery or
physically assaulted/attacked another person. If any of these
questions was answered ‘yes,’’ violent behavior was coded as
present. Frequency of alcohol consumption was reported on a 6-
point Likert-type scale from ‘‘every day’to ‘‘less than once per
month’’; two or more times a week was chosen to indicate
‘regular alcohol use’’(Seto et al., 2010). Participants also were
asked if they had ever used cannabis or any ‘‘hard’ drugs (e.g.,
cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy, heroine, hallucinogens).
Statistical Analysis
Pearson v
-tests were used to compare predictor and outcome
variables between the two genders. Odds ratios (OR) were cal-
culated to assess the association between past exposure to con-
tact and non-contact sexual abuse, and engaging in any sexual
coercion behavior, while controlling for other covariates. These
analyses were stratified by gender. Hierarchical logistic regres-
sion analysis was performed, the first model entering exposure
to non-sexual abuse/demographic variables as independent fac-
tors (controlling for other types of adversities associated with
sexual abuse), the second entering mental health problems and
violent behaviors/substance (controlling for other possible out-
comes of sexually abusive experiences)use as binary independent
variables, and the third model entering all the covariates, with
reported coercive behaviors as dependent variable. Multi-
collinearity diagnostics were applied by analyzing variance
inflation factors (VIF; Myers, 1990). None of the predictors/covari-
ates showed multicollinearity. All analyses were performed using
SPSS Version 21 for Windows, were two-tailed, and utilized a
threshold for statistical significance of p=0.05.
Arch Sex Behav
Descriptive Findings
Frequencies for all outcomes, predictors and covariates, by gen-
der, are shown in Table 1. In total, 245 (7.1 %) males and 40
(1.3 %) females reported to have sexually coerced another per-
son, either forcing them to undress, touching the other person’s
private parts against their will, or urging them to perform some
sexual act or acts. Notably, all coercive sexual behaviors were
more frequently reported by males. Among these‘‘sexual coerc-
ers,’’ 104 (42.4 %) males and 34 (85.0 %) females reported a
personal history of sexual victimization. In the full sample, rela-
tive to females, males more often reported conduct problems,
violent behaviors, regular alcohol consumption, and either can-
nabis or hard drug use. Conversely, females more often reported
exposure to all types of abuse. Additionally, females also reported
emotional problems more often than males. Out of 173 (5.0 %)
male and 484 (15.2 %) female victims of contact sexual abuse,
41 (23.7 %) and 22 (4.5 %) reported having enacted coercive
sexual behaviors, respectively. Out of 416 (12.1 %) male and
780 (24.4 %) female victims of non-contact sexual abuse, 63
(15.1 %) and 12 (1.5 %) reported coercive sexual behaviors (data
not shown in Table 1).
Prediction of Sexual Coercion in Male Youths
In univariate analyses, males who reported a history of personal
non-contact or sexual contact abuse were more likely to report
having engaged in coercive sexual behavior(s). In addition to
past exposure to physical violence and childhood maltreatment,
the presence of emotional problems, conduct problems, hyperac-
tivity, and personal violent behavior and substance use were all
positively associated with sexual coercion (Table 2). Furthermore,
exposure to non-contact and contact sexual abuse was significantly
associated with sexual coercion after controlling for all covari-
ates. Childhood maltreatment, conduct problems, violent behav-
ior,andharddruguseweresignicant predictors of sexual coer-
cion in the final full model (Table 2, fifth column).
Table 1 Frequencies of outcome, predictor, and covariate variables in male and female youths
Variables Male youths (n=3,434) Female youths (n=3,194) v
-test Total sample (N=6628)
Frequencies (%) Frequencies (%) Frequencies (%)
Sexual coercion
Forced someone else to undress 71 (2.1 %) 17 (0.5 %) 29.78*** 88 (1.3 %)
Touched private parts of someone else
against his/her will
202 (5.9 %) 25 (0.8 %) 130.11*** 227 (3.4 %)
Urged someone else to do sexual things 46 (1.3 %) 15 (0.5 %) 13.73*** 61 (0.9 %)
Any committed sexual coercion 245 (7.1%) 40 (1.3 %) 139.14*** 285 (4.3 %)
Exposure to sexual abuse
Exposure to sexual abuse with contact 173 (5.0 %) 484 (15.2 %) 189.62*** 657 (9.9 %)
Exposure to sexual abuse without contact 416 (12.1 %) 780 (24.4 %) 169.48*** 1,196 (18.0 %)
Exposure to nonsexual abuse
Exposure to physical violence 2,259 (65.8 %) 1,859 (58.2 %) 40.42*** 4,118 (62.1 %)
Exposure to child maltreatment 658 (19.2 %) 1,204 (37.7 %) 281.41*** 1,862 (28.1 %)
Low parental education 853 (24.8 %) 806 (26.9 %) 3.76 n.s. 1,713 (25.8 %)
Urban versus rural living area 2,511 (73.1 %) 2,411 (75.5 %) 4.84* 4,922 (74.3 %)
Mental health problems
Clinical range of SDQ Emotional problems 82 (2.4 %) 350 (11.0 %) 199.48*** 432 (6.5 %)
Clinical range of SDQ Conduct problems 432 (12.6 %) 228 (7.1 %) 54.65*** 660 (10.0 %)
Clinical range of SDQ Hyperactivity 274 (8.0 %) 269 (8.4 %) 0.43 n.s. 543 (8.2 %)
Clinical range of SDQ Peer problems 142 (4.1 %) 112 (3.5 %) 1.77 n.s. 254 (3.8 %)
Violent behavior/substance use
Violent behavior (nonsexual) 1,853 (54.0 %) 806 (25.2 %) 568.40*** 2,659 (40.1 %)
Alcohol ([2?times p. week) 542 (15.8 %) 249 (7.8 %) 100.46*** 791 (11.9 %)
Ever used cannabis 944 (27.5 %) 552 (17.3 %) 98.66*** 1,496 (22.6 %)
Ever used hard drugs 547 (15.9 %) 384 (12.0 %) 20.92*** 931 (14.0 %)
*p\.05, ** p\.01, *** p\.001
Arch Sex Behav
Prediction of Sexual Coercion in Female Youths
Univariate analysis revealed that females who reported personal
victimization with either non-contact or sexual contact abuse
were more likely to report engaging in coercive sexual behav-
ior(s). The presence of child maltreatment also was associated
with sexual coercion, as were all of the SDQ problem scales and
violent behavior/substance use variables (Table 3, second col-
umn). After controlling for covariates, exposure to sexual con-
tact abuse remained significantly associated with sexual coer-
cion. Exposure to non-contact sexual abuse narrowly missed
meeting the a priori level of statistical significance, while the pre-
sence of emotional problems, hyperactivity, violent behavior,
regular alcohol use, and hard drug use remained positive predic-
tors of sexual coercion (Table 3, fifth column). This could be due
to a lack of statistical power because only 40 females (1.3 %)
reported having committed sexual coercion. Therefore, we per-
formed an additional logistic regression with a reduced number
of predictor variables to increase the statistical power of the pre-
dictors by combining covariates (any maltreatment or physical
abuse, any SDQ-problem scale in the clinical range, violent behav-
ior, and any alcohol, cannabis or drug use). In this model (not
shown in Table 3), past exposure to sexual abuse with contact
and past non-contact sexual abuse became statistically signif-
icant predictors of sexual coercion, with OR =8.12 (95 % CI
3.08–21.40) and OR 3.16 (95 % CI 1.13–8.83), respectively.
Additional Analyses of Risk Factors in Youths Who
Reported Sexual Abuse with Contact
Additional analyses in the subsample of victims of sexual abuse
with contact revealed that the presence of sexual abuse perpe-
trated by a stranger was a significant risk factor for sexual coer-
cion in male youths. Being a victim of multiple sexual abuse events
and being a victim of oral, vaginal, or anal penetration were sig-
nificant predictors of sexual coercion in female youths (Table 4).
Consistent with previously published findings and our hypothesis,
victims of CSA were more likely than non-victims to report per-
sonally engaging in coercive sexual behaviors against another
person (Borowsky et al., 1997; Casey et al., 2009;Lodicoetal.,
1996;Setoetal.,2010). After controlling for other risk factors, the
OR was almost four (3.8) for adolescent boys exposed to sexual
Table 2 Predictors (covariates) of committed sexual coercion in male youths (N=3434)
Variables Univariate analyses Multivariate model
Multivariate model
Full model
OR (95 % CI) OR (95 % CI) OR (95 % CI) OR (95 % CI)
Exposure to sexual abuse
Exposure to sexual abuse with contact 5.96 (4.048.79)4.95 (3.317.39)4.04 (2.676.12)3.81 (2.495.82)
Exposure to sexual abuse without contact 3.42 (2.494.70)2.98 (2.154.12)2.48 (1.783.46)2.43 (1.733.41)
Exposure to non-sexual abuse
Exposure to physical violence 1.66 (1.232.34) 1.21 (0.88–1.66) 0.78 (0.55–1.09)
Exposure to child maltreatment 2.43 (1.843.20)1.81 (1.342.43)– 1.49 (1.092.03)
Low parental education 1.26 (0.94–1.67) 1.08 (0.80–1.45) 1.05 (0.77–1.43)
Urban versus rural community 1.23 (0.91–1.67) 1.21 (0.90–1.68) 1.20 (0.87–1.66)
Mental health problems
Clinical range of SDQ Emotional problems 2.78 (1.545.02) 1.54 (0.78–3.05) 1.45 (0.73–2.87)
Clinical range of SDQ Conduct problems 3.91 (2.935.22)– 1.97 (1.412.76)1.91 (1.362.68)
Clinical range of SDQ Hyperactivity 2.30 (1.593.33) 1.36 (0.90–2.06) 1.34 (0.89–2.03)
Clinical range of SDQ Peer problems 0.88 (0.44–1.74) 0.70 (0.33–1.49) 0.68 (0.32–1.44)
Violent behavior/substance use
Violent behavior (nonsexual) 4.25 (3.055.93)– 2.83 (1.994.01)2.90 (2.024.18)
Alcohol ([2?times per week) 2.25 (1.683.02) 1.02 (0.72–1.43) 1.02 (0.72–1.44)
Ever used cannabis 2.43 (1.873.16) 1.35 (0.99–1.85) 1.36 (0.99–1.86)
Ever used hard drugs 3.14 (2.374.15)– 1.78 (1.292.45)1.79 (1.292.47)
CI 95 % confidence interval, OR odds ratios, CI that do not include 1.00 indicate a significant OR at p\0.05;s ignificant OR are in bold,
entering variables for
non-sexual abuse and demographics,
entering variables for mental health problems and substance use/violent behavior
Arch Sex Behav
contact abuse, while an OR of 2.4 was identified for boys exposed
to non-contact sexual abuse. Corresponding numbers for adoles-
cent girls were 5.9 and 2.7. These findings mirror those of a
previous study of Norwegian and Swedish male adolescents that
found sexually abused boys to be approximately three times more
likely to exhibit coercive sexual behaviors (Seto et al., 2010).
However, previous studies were limited to sexual violence in part-
nerships (Casey et al., 2009) and/or primarily focused on male
youths (Seto et al., 2010). By the inclusion ofa female sample
and by considering non-contact sexual abuse as an additional
predictor, the currentstudy adds to our understandingof sexual
coercion committed by juveniles.
Exposure to Sexual Abuse and Sexual Coercion
The current findings were in line with previous studies based on
male adult and adolescent offender samples (Burton, 2003;Jes-
persen et al., 2009; Seto & Lalumiere, 2010) and support the
exi stence of a unique pathway from sexual maltreatment to sexual
coercivebehaviors in youths.Other forms of maltreatment that
often co-occur with sexual abuse (Edwards, Holden, Felitti, &
Anda, 2003) and other frequently reported outcomes of sexual
abuse (Maniglio, 2009; McGrath, Nilsen, & Kerley, 2011)do
not explain the link between sexual victimization and reported
sexual coercive behaviors.
Table 3 Predictors (covariates) of committed sexual coercion in female youths (N=3194)
Variables Univariate analyses Multivariate model
Multivariate model
Full model
OR (95 % CI) OR (95 % C I) OR (95 % CI) OR (95 % CI)
Exposure to sexual abuse
Exposure to sexual abuse with contact 15.27 (6.1637.87)11.96 (4.6131.04)5.99 (2.3115.53)5.91 (2.1815.98)
Exposure to sexual abuse without contact 5.01 (1.8713.40)4.28 (1.5611.75) 2.45 (0.87–6.88) 2.66 (0.92–7.66)
Exposure to non-sexual abuse
Exposure to physical violence 1.91 (0.95–3.83) 0.96 (0.46–2.00) 0.49 (0.22–1.09)
Exposure to child maltreatment 3.49 (1.796.79) 1.91 (0.94–3.87) 1.35 (0.64–2.82)
Low parental education 1.47 (0.76–2.83) 1.26 (0.65–2.46) 1.30 (0.64–2.62)
Urban versus rural community 1.12 (0.53–2.36) 1.05 (0.49–2.23) 0.94 (0.42–2.11)
Mental health problems
Clinical range of SDQ Emotional problems 3.15 (1.566.36)– 2.68 (1.225.87)2.77 (1.256.16)
Clinical range of SDQ Conduct problems 5.13 (2.5310.42) 1.12 (0.48–2.61) 1.08 (0.46–2.54)
Clinical range of SDQ Hyperactivity 5.45 (2.7810.69)– 2.66 (1.255.66)2.72 (1.275.84)
Clinical range of SDQ Peer problems 4.07 (1.5610.60) 2.15 (0.70–6.62) 2.13 (0.68–6.69)
Violent behavior/substance use
Violent behavior (nonsexual) 6.33 (3.2512.33)– 3.67 (1.787.56)4.06 (1.928.59)
Alcohol ([2?times per week) 6.69 (3.4512.98)– 2.45 (1.165.20)2.71 (1.265.82)
Ever used cannabis 5.46 (2.9210.23) 1.61 (0.77–3.40) 1.55 (0.73–3.28)
Ever used hard drugs 8.50 (4.5315.96)– 3.08 (1.516.29)3.33 (1.616.87)
CI 95 % confidence interval, OR odds ratios; CI that do not include 1.00 indicate a significant OR at p\0.05;significant OR are in bold,
entering variables for
non-sexual abuse and demographics,
entering variables for mental health problems and substance use/violent behavior
Table 4 Predictors (covariates) of sexual coercion in a subsample of male and female youths reporting exposure to sexual abuse with contact
Variables (Male youths n=173) (Female youths n=484)
OR (95 % CI) OR (95 % CI)
Multiple episodes of sexual abuse 1.27 (0.60–2.68) 3.62 (1.2110.87)
Oral, vaginal or anal penetration 2.42 (0.92–6.42) 2.95 (1.207.28)
First sexual abuse before 12 years 1.38 (0.60–3.18) 1.25 (0.45–3.48)
Perpetrator was a stranger 2.59 (1.185.72) 1.00 (0.29–3.47)
Perpetrator was a family member 1.08 (0.11–10.62) n/c
CI 95 % confidence interval, OR odds ratios; CI that do not include 1.00 indicate a significant OR at p\0.05; significant OR are in bold; n/cnot calculable
Arch Sex Behav
In the present study the experience of sexual abuse was found
equally important as a risk factor for sexual coercive behaviors
in female as well as in male adolescents. This finding expands
previous research based on female offender samples which
found mixed results regarding the experience of sexual victim-
ization as a risk factor for sexually coercive behaviors (e.g.,
Christopher et al., 2007; Glasser et al., 2001). Given the high
percentage of sexual abuse among females who reported sexual
coercion in the present study, the understanding of how sexual
abuse affected sexual aggression should become a major issue in
future research of female sex offenders.
Cognitive and emotional processes play a role in victims
becoming sexual perpetrators: According to social learning
theory, victims may‘‘learn’’ inadequate sexualbehaviors from
their perpetrators and reproduce these behaviors against other
children or adolescents (Bandura, 1978).Previous studies sup-
port the existence of social learning processes in sexually vic-
timized male juvenile sex offenders (Burton, 2003). Offence char-
acteristics of experienced sexual abuse were found to mirror
characteristics of sexual offending behaviors regarding victim’s
gender, committed sexual acts, and used modus operandi.
Furthermore, the presence of shame has been linked to anger
arousal, irritability, and aggression (Tangney, Wagner, Fletcher,
&Gramzow,1992). Some highly ashamed victims of sexual
abuse may not be able to express these feelings adequately and
convert their shame to anger. Adolescents who converted shame
(i.e., little expressed sense of shame, high tendency to blaming
others) were found to demonstrate more violent delinquent be-
havior than peers who expressed their sense of shame (Gold,
Sullivan, & Lewis, 2011). Additionally, a sexually traumatized
offender may feel empowered when sexually coercing another
person. Such forms of appetitive aggression have been found to
decrease vulnerability to post-traumatic stress symptoms in
former victims of trauma (e.g., Weierstall et al., 2013). Despite
the strong link between exposure to sexual abuse and sexual
coercion, it is worth mentioning that the majority of self-
reported sexual coercers (particularly males) did not report any
personal experiences with sexual abuse. Hence, other etiologi-
cal factors, like innate hostilities or deviant sexual arousal, may
become relevant in explaining sexual aggression in non-abused
offenders (Hunter & Becker, 1994).
Sex Specific Risk Factors for Sexual Coercion
Having been maltreated, having a conduct disorder, having
shown violent non-sexual behaviors, and using either alcohol or
illicit drugs also were found to be related to sexual coercion.
Behavioral and emotional difficulties, as well as substance use,
have frequently been described in victims of maltreatment and
CSA (Maniglio, 2009). In some of these adolescents, the com-
mitted sex-coercing behavior most likely represents part of a
more comprehensive pattern of antisocial behaviors (Aebi et al.,
2012). Disinhibitory effects of alcohol and drug use also may
lower thresholds for criminal behaviors, including sexual vio-
lence (Martin, 2001).
Although we found common risk factors to be of relevance, the
threshold to commit sexual offenses appeared to be much higher
for girls than for boys. Remarkably in our study, hyperactivity and
emotional problems were predictive of sexual coercion in girls,
but not in boys. Delinquent girls had more and a broader spectrum
of psychiatric disorders and comorbidities than delinquent boys
(e.g., Plattner et al., 2007). The present findings support the as-
sumption that a very small group of sexually abused girls with
severe psychiatricproblems—such as reduced impulsecontrol
and depressed mood—are at increased risk of coercive sexual
Sexual Non-contact Abuse and Sexual Coercion
Previous studies on CSA have primarily focused on victimiza-
tion via sexual contact, with the perpetrator an adult and the
victim younger than 18 years; but they generally have not con-
sidered non-contact forms of sexual abuse (Freyd et al., 2005;
Seto et al., 2010). The CASQ (Mohler-Kuo et al., 2014) includes
types of sexual abuse related to the Internet and new media (e.g.,
online sexual harassment) but is not limited to these forms of
non-contact abuse. With the development of new media tech-
nology, the use of the internet and smart phones is currentlyvery
prevalent among adolescents. In Switzerland, where the current
study took place, 95 % of youths have a mobile phone and 97%
their own Internet access (Willemse, Waller, Su
¨ss, Genner, &
Huber, 2012). Chatting about sexual topics and exchanging porno-
graphic pictures have become readily feasible via social media
platforms. These technologies facilitate new forms of sexual
offense (Short, Black, Smith, Wetterneck, & Wells, 2012). There
is some evidence that juveniles’ sexual attitudes and behaviors
may be influenced to a higher degree by Internet content than by
other sources (Lo & Wei, 2005). In 10–15year old children,
besides exposure to Internet pornography, the potential for
sexual harassment via the Internet and text messaging was foun d
to be related to current and later aggressive sexual behavior
(Ybarra, Mitchell, Hamburger, Diener-West, & Leaf, 2011).
Our findings support the importance of non-contact sexual
victimization as an additional risk factor for coercive sexual
behaviors in adolescents.
Further Risk Factors in Victims of Contact Abuse
Of those adolescents who reported sexual abuse with contact,
only a minority reported engaging in sexual coercion them-
selves. Male adolescents whose abuse was perpetrated by a
stranger were at higher risk of engaging in coercive sexual
behaviors. In contrast, in a previous study among Norwegian
and Swedish adolescents, boys who were sexually abused by a
strangerwere less likely to reportsexual aggression (Setoet al.,
2010). In addition, a study of adolescent offenders found boys
Arch Sex Behav
who had been sexually abused over several years, boys who
were penetrated and boys who were related to the offender at
higherrisk to be in the sex offenderthan in the non-sexoffender
group (Burton et al., 2002). These disparate findings may be
explained by different ways of measuring experiences of sexual
abuse and different sample characteristics. For example,in the
current study, a broader spectrum of abuses was assessed than in
the study reported by Seto et al. (2010).
We found female adolescents who reported multiple victim-
izations and the experience of oral, anal, or vaginal penetration to
be at increased risk of themselves engaging in coercive sexual
behaviors. This finding supports an additive model, in which the
frequency and severity of experienced victimization influences
the probability of sexual coercion.
Study Strengths and Limitations
The present study is based on an anonymous survey of a large,
nationally representative sample of youths attending schools
within a well-developed, high-income country. The large num-
ber of participants allowed for extensive multivariate testing of
multiple risk factors with sufficient statistical power. However,
our survey was cross-sectional, so that causal relationships be-
tween life-time CSA and subsequent sexual coercion cannot be
established. In fact, we cannot rule out the possibility that some
adolescents may have engaged in coercive sexual behaviors
before being sexually victimized. Furthermore, the present
findings are based solely upon anonymous self-reports and are
subject to possible recall bias and potential confounding related
to the relative willingness of participants to report CSA and
coercive behaviors; for example, could ou r adolescent girls have
been more or less willing than their male counterparts to report
such activities? In addition, sexual behaviors—like the viewing
of pornography, age of first intercourse, and number of sexual
partners—were not assessed in the present survey and, therefore,
were not considered as covariates. Finally, the present findings
may not be generalizable to adolescents at high risk for sexual
abuse, as antisocial and sexually deviant youths were probably
under-reported in this school sample.
The present findings highlight the extreme importance of CSA
prevention in children and adolescents, given that victims them-
selves may become perpetrators, maintaining an endless cycle.
Consequently, a comprehensive assessment of several risk factors
in children and adolescents seems necessary to estimate the po-
tential for future or ongoing sexual coercion. It should be taken into
account that the use of modern media technologies is a dominant
and influential activity in youths. Clinicians may use instruments
that also target online sexual experiences and victimization in
youths (Boonman et al., 2014). Specific interventions targeting
children with victimization experiences and/or deviant sexual
behaviors might ultimately improve mental health and reduce
sexual aggression among adolescents, both short-term and well
into adulthood (Gibson & Leitenberg, 2000).
Acknowledgments The authors are gratefulto all the students who par-
ticipated in the study. We also thank Ursula Meidert from the Institute of
Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, who helped with data
collection. The data presented in this article were assessed in the context of
the Optimus Study. The Optimus Study was initiated and funded by the
Conictofinterests All authors declare that they have no conflicts of
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... Associations between CSA and the subsequent perpetration of sexual aggressors can be found in many sources (Merrill et al. 2001;Casey et al. 2009;Davis et al. 2012;DeLisi et al. 2014;Aebi et al. 2015;Mathes 2015;Krahé and Berger 2017;Peterson et al. 2018). Male CSA victims have a six times greater risk of sexual perpetration than normative counterparts (Loh and Gidycz 2006). ...
... Male CSA victims have a six times greater risk of sexual perpetration than normative counterparts (Loh and Gidycz 2006). Even if risk factors such as mental health conditions, substance use, urban versus rural setting, parental education, and broader maltreatment histories are controlled, the odds of boys engaging in coercive sexual behavior rise secondary to contact (OR ¼ 3.8) or non-contact (OR ¼ 2.4) sexual abuse (Aebi et al. 2015). ...
Lifetime patterns of physical and sexual aggression are thought to emerge in complex developmental trajectories with slopes steepened and dampened by assorted risk and resiliency factors. Childhood adversity represents one of the most robust risk clusters identified in the literature. Adversity factors have included a range of family stressors that include frank maltreatment and neglect in its various manifestations. This chapter reviews the literature implicating child abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction in the developmental trajectories of physical, sexual, and suicidal aggression. Associations will be identified from convergent lines of prospective and retrospective evidence involving institutionalized and survey participants. Distinctions will be made between nexuses established from dimensional frequency and severity risk indicators and those derived from simple adversity exposure counts. Future researchers will be challenged to more effectively deconstruct adversity impacts on aggression into their respective main, mediated (indirect), additive, and interactive components. Exposure contextual influences such as their timing, chronicity, and severity of adversity events must be assimilated into models as well. There is much work to be done in understanding the complex relationship between these developmental antecedents and violent sequelae.
... Sexual aggressors often report higher rates of CSA (Aebi et al., 2015;Casey et al., 2009;Davis et al., 2012;DeLisi et al., 2014;Krahé & Berger, 2017;Mathes, 2015;Merrill et al., 2001;Peterson et al., 2018). The odds of male CSA victims reporting lifetime acts of sexual perpetration are around six times higher than their non-abused counterparts (Loh & Gidycz, 2006). ...
... The odds of male CSA victims reporting lifetime acts of sexual perpetration are around six times higher than their non-abused counterparts (Loh & Gidycz, 2006). A different analysis that controlled for other risk factors (e.g., non-sexual abuse, low parent education, urban/rural setting, mental health concerns, substance use, non-sexual violence) still found elevated odds for coercive sexual behavior among boys victimized by either contact (OR = 3.8) and non-contact (OR = 2.4) sexual abuse (Aebi et al., 2015). One meta-analysis compared male adolescent sex offenders to counterparts who committed non-sexual offenses (Seto & Lalumière, 2010). ...
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Questionnaire has been used increasingly in survey research to identify respondents at elevated risk of later maladjustment. The value of the ACE count in this crowdsourcing sample (N = 2,430) was contrasted with dimensional child abuse and neglect risk indicators in regard to self-reported sexual aggression. Respondents completed the Revised Sexual Experiences Survey (SES-SFP), ACE Questionnaire, and five dimensional indices of childhood neglect (Assessing Environments III), exposure to intimate partner violence (Violent Experiences Questionnaire-Revised), and sexual (Sexual Abuse & Assault Self-Report), physical (Physical Abuse Self-Report), and emotional abuse (VEQ-R). A focal question in this analysis was whether self-reported sexual aggression would be more strongly associated with specific forms of child abuse and neglect over a broader count of different ACE exposures. ACE items linked most closely to sexual aggression included sexual abuse, physical neglect, domestic violence, and family incarceration. A count of elevations (> 1 SD) on the dimensional child abuse and neglect indices provided the stronger risk indicator in the analysis. Dimensional sexual (r = .48) and physical (r = .47) abuse scores were strongly associated with sexual aggression among the men. The greatest risk of adult sexual assaultive behavior was posed by the co-occurrence of any two forms of the dimensional child abuse and neglect indicators. These results emphasized the value of traditional child abuse and neglect indices as risk indicators of sexual aggressiveness.
... On the other hand, early studies suggested that sexual victimization in childhood explains the development of pedophilic attraction (Fedoroff & Pinkus, 1996;Freund et al., 1990;Freund & Kuban, 1994). Recent studies indicate that sexual victimization in childhood increases the risk of committing sexual victimization toward children (Coxe & Holmes, 2001;Jespersen et al., 2009;Salter et al., 2003;Seto & Lalumière, 2010;Simons et al., 2008) or adults (Aebi et al., 2015;Jespersen et al., 2009;Johnson & Knight, 2000;Pedneault et al., 2020;Peterson et al., 2018). Studies have failed it (Davis & Knight, 2019;Nunes et al., 2013), some found a trend (Alanko et al., 2017;Pham et al., 2022) and one found both positive and negative influence (Jahnke, Schmidt, & Hoyer, 2022) in the development of pedophilic attraction. ...
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In the light of the understanding of pedophilia, several disciplines have been an effort to analyze distinct levels of sexual attraction toward children but also sexual attraction toward children plus sexual offenses. Most recent evidence indicates a potential role of the biological sphere in sexual interest toward children and susceptibility to sexual offenses. In general, genetics is involved in the sexual interest of children. In addition, several neuroimage studies indicate a different brain structure among persons with pedophilia in comparison with persons with attraction toward adults and also considering the history of sexual crimes against children. Also, persons with pedophilia have physical features such as height, leg length, and congenital malformations. It suggests a different ontogeny process during gestation. The 2D:4D length ratio, a biomarker of prenatal androgenization in utero, has been linked with sexual offending against children and brain structure among persons with the pedophilic disorder. In contrast, theories of learning indicate that sexual victimization in childhood is associated with the risk of committing sexual offenses against children in later life. In contrast, some studies have had discrepancies if this adverse experience facilitates the development of pedophilic attraction. In women, recent studies indicate the presence of female minor-attracted persons and their social and psychological difficulties for their interests. Finally, evidence of pedophilic-like behaviors facilitated by altered brain mechanisms is associated with the propensity to commit sexual offending rather than sexual attraction. This review provides state of the art from the biological sphere of pedophilia considering criminal behavior.
... Another study found that experiences of child sex abuse were more common in the histories of child sexual abusers while rapists reported more frequent experiences of physical abuse (Simons et al., 2008). Using self-reports of sexual abuse and subsequent sexual offending behavior among ninth graders in Switzerland, Aebi et al., (2015) observed that victims of child sexual abuse were more likely that non-victims to report engaging in coercive sexual behaviors. Clearly, research finds experiencing child abuse to be a significant risk factor for later perpetration. ...
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A growing body of academic literature has directed attention toward the buyers of commercial sex as calls to address the demand side of this underground industry have steadily increased. The presence of violence in the commercial sex market has been extensively documented, compelling scholars to examine how the clientele contribute to this phenomenon and in what ways they can be distinguished from the general population. Empirical evidence gives reason to believe sex buying and sexual violence are connected but also raises questions about the nature and degree of this relationship. Further, findings in this area have been inconclusive as the mechanisms underlying how commodification translates into aggression remain underdeveloped. The current inquiry contributes to the field by synthesizing existing knowledge on sex buyers with correlates of sexual violence. This article compares and contrasts the risk factors for both sex buying and sexual violence and identifies areas where findings have been inconsistent. The discussion concludes with theoretical and methodological recommendations for improving our understanding of violence against women in the modern commercial sex market.
... Individuals experiencing early abuse/deprivation have subsequently exhibited aggressive, unstructured, and less sensitive parenting toward their own children (Dixon, Browne, & Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2005;Dowdney, Skuse, Rutter, Quinton, & Mrazek, 1985;Ruscio, 2001). Early adversity has also been linked to subsequent impulsivity, substance use, affective disorders, sexual coercion, dating violence, risky sexual practices, antisocial behavior, and chronic illness and disability (Aebi et al., 2015;Felitti et al., 1998;Gunnar & Quevedo, 2007 Notably, epigenetic markers (e.g., methyl groups) can accumulate in response to trauma (Miller, 2021). Epigenetic age (assessed by detailing the burden of markers on DNA) can be increased in relation to chronological age, indicating a biological aging process that reflects greater physiological stress, even if the individual is still relatively young. ...
Advances in neuroscience have promoted greater interdisciplinary dialogues, including with psychoanalytic theories. The concept of premature development in response to childhood experiences of abuse has been developed by analysts including Sándor Ferenczi and Sigmund Freud. Such traumatic events lead a child to hasten psychic and somatic development in accordance with destructive and confusing impingements from the environment. Aligned with these theories, neuroscientific investigation has demonstrated comparable effects resulting from childhood trauma, including an accelerated and incomplete development of neural circuitry, as well as a physiological maturation that lowers the age of reproductive availability. These biological consequences, in conjunction with the effects of early trauma on later behaviors, including impulsivity and sexual risk-taking, may increase chances of early conception, which authors have posited may be an evolutionary adaptation to a chaotic environment. In addition, epigenetic and endocrine markers may be passed on by traumatized individuals to their offspring, potentially predisposing the latter to greater physiological stress in-utero and during early life, potentially furthering intergenerational effect of trauma. By combining insights from biological and psychoanalytic arenas, an enriched understanding can emerge from which to investigate the manifold effects of traumatic events, as relevant a concern today as it was a century ago.
... The largest of them may be the sample size, which has only one participant representing each type of violence (excluding sexual violence), and therefore cannot be generalized. The exclusion of sexual violence from the sample can also be considered a limitation of the study; however, in line with the literature, it is recognized that the process of normalization and intergenerational violence can also occur in relation to this type of violence (Aebi et al., 2015;Assink et al., 2019Assink et al., , 2018Jespersen, Lalumière, & Seto, 2009). ...
Using a qualitative case study approach, this study aimed to investigate the family context in the childhood of adults who themselves have been violent toward their own children. The study, conducted in Brazil, included the participation of three adults, of both genders, who were neglectful as well as physically and psychologically violent toward their children. Data collection was carried out using the Interview About the Past of Parents (IAPP) and family genograms. Findings demonstrate factors that contribute to the perpetuation of violence across generations, and explain the difficulties in breaking cycles of violence. Importantly, findings highlight how the discipline practices used with their own children were reproductions of the models of parenting and related manifestations of violence that the participants themselves were exposed to in childhood. From these findings, the importance of psychosocial interventions that assist family members in replacing coercive parenting practices with healthier strategies is reiterated.
... The more the severity of childhood trauma and sexual abuse the more the female offenders were inclined toward committing sexual offenses Levenson and Grady (2016) The sample population consisted of 740 adult sex offenders, of which 93.5% were males and 6.5% were females Childhood hardship was associated with sexual deviance and sexual violence exhibited by sex offenders Early treatment of clients who have faced childhood adversity can prevent future involvement in sex offenses Comartin et al. (2018) The study used a self-reported survey involving 60 incarcerated female sex offenders to establish childhood and adult trauma histories associated with both co-offending and coerced offending Trauma histories significantly predicted both co-offending and coerced offending among FSOs Addressing issues of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse for young women during treatment therapy would significantly reduce the risk of victims becoming future offenders an offender was found in a study by Aebi et al. (2015) that demonstrated a strong relationship between past sexual abuse and sexually offending behavior. Furthermore, increased ACE scores have been associated with high levels of recidivism (Moore and Tatman, 2016). ...
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Objectives This review examined the existing empirical literature on trauma histories of female sex offenders to investigate the effects of childhood sexual abuse along with other traumatic experiences that lead to developmental traumas. Material and methods For this, validated questionnaire were used; we searched for articles in PsycInfo, PubMed, CINAHL, MEDLINE, and EMBASE. The inclusion criteria comprised studies that employed the Adverse Childhood Experience Questionnaire and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and that were published in English from 2007–2020. To direct this review, the articles’ selection followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews guidelines. After reviewing 2039 abstracts, 78 met the criteria; after removing duplicates, 12 articles were assessed for eligibility. Eventually, four abstracts that used the validated questionnaires were considered admissible and their methods involved non-randomized convenience samples of sex offenders either in prison or in treatment programs. Results Statistics on female sex offender prosecutions were relatively low compared to victim reports of sexual abuse committed by females. Compared with males, sexual abuse perpetrated by females had more damaging effects on the victims. The results indicated that childhood sexual abuse history was the most common type of maltreatment, along with physical abandonment, emotional abandonment, mental illness at home, and family instability due to divorced or unmarried parents, contributing to the development of sex offending behaviors. Conclusion Future research should address policies that allow for early intervention and treatments that target the understanding of maltreatment histories to ameliorate the child sexual abuse effects in life's early stages.
A history of child sexual abuse (CSA) is associated with a variety of psychological issues and conduct disorders in adolescents. However, little is known about the association between CSA and its characteristics and murderous behaviors in young adults. The purpose of this study was to examine this relationship and explore the mediating effect of psychological adjustment (PA). A cross-sectional study was conducted with 4034 college students in Anhui Province, China. The participants were invited to complete self-report questionnaires regarding the history of CSA, self-perceived PA and murderous behaviors. PA was evaluated by two of the most important indicators: resilience and emotional release. Mediation analyses were computed via parallel mediation models. Of the participants, 14.1% reported experiencing CSA. After controlling for potential confounders, CSA victimization was robustly and positively associated with murderous ideation (OR: 2.36, 95% CI: 1.77–3.14), murderous plans (OR: 4.02, 95% CI: 2.63–6.12), murderous preparation (OR: 3.87, 95% CI: 2.37–6.31), and murderous attempts (OR: 5.35, 95% CI: 3.11–9.21). CSA victimization that was persistent and of the combined contact or noncontact types greatly increased the risk of murderous behaviors. A dose–response relationship was observed between the duration of experienced CSA and murderous behaviors. Furthermore, the results of the mediation analysis revealed that PA partially mediated the relationship between CSA victimization and murderous behaviors. Therefore, PA protects against the development of murderous behaviors in abused individuals. These findings have important implications for the prevention and intervention of murderous behaviors in adolescents who experienced CSA, highlighting the importance of considering PA as a protective role in this relationship.
This study’s objective was to understand the life story and romantic relationships of men serving time for the rape of children and/or adolescents and the circumstances under which the crimes were committed. This is a qualitative study with a multiple-case design. Three men diagnosed with pedophilic disorder, convicted of sexual violence against children and/or adolescents participated. The following instruments were used: a sociodemographic form and semi-structured interviews. The results revealed that the victimizers consider that sexual interactions with children/adolescents are appropriate, provided not very young children or violence is involved. They acknowledged their disorder only in terms of immaturity. In addition to criminal punishment, psychological counseling provided to pedophiles is vital to prevent relapses.
Rates of exposure to sexual and non-sexual physical violence and other adverse childhood events are greater among people who are incarcerated with convictions for offenses related to sexual and non-sexual violence compared to other incarcerated populations and the general community. Few studies have differentiated which types of prior adverse experiences are greatest predictors of sexual and non-sexual violent offenses. The following study investigated associations between experiencing sexual abuse as a child or adult; experiencing non-sexual physical violence during childhood, adulthood, or both; having a caretaker who uses drugs; being in foster care; growing up in socioeconomically marginalized conditions; and the likelihood of reporting a prior physical or sexual conviction. The sample consisted of 13,604 men incarcerated in state and federal prisons in the United States. Multinomial regression models compared convictions for sexual offenses and non-sexual violent offenses to all other crimes. A model also compared sexual offenses to non-sexual violent offenses to differentiate between types of adverse childhood experiences associated with sexual versus non-sexual violent offending. Models adjusted for race/ethnicity, education, and age. Results suggest that exposure to violence during childhood was significantly and violence during adulthood was insignificantly associated with increased risk of conviction for a non-sexual physical offense. Sexual violence victimization as a child only was associated with increased risk of conviction for sexual violence perpetration during adulthood. Foster care involvement was associated with increased risk of being convicted for a non-sexual violent offense. Findings suggest that different traumatic pathways may differentiate types of aggression in adulthood. Future research must evaluate if trauma-informed approaches should be catered to address the unique effects of sexual and non-sexual victimization and the perpetration of different types of aggression in adulthood.
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Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) continues to occur in our communities at an alarming rate, with up to 30 percent of children experiencing CSA of any kind and between five and 10 percent experiencing severe abuse (Fergusson & Mullen 1999). CSA has been associated with an array of emotional, behavioural and social difficulties (Cutajar et al. 2010a, 2010b; Fergusson & Mullen 1999; Gilbert et al. 2009). Of considerable interest is the relationship between CSA, offending and re-victimisation, particularly sexual offending re-victimisation. Existing studies that have investigated these relationships have suffered from a lack of empirical sophistication, which has left a large gap in our understanding of the fundamental questions pertaining to how many sexually abused children later offend or experience re-victimisation. In particular, most studies have been marred by small samples, have relied upon adults, self-reports of CSA, have included samples with relatively few males and the follow-up of offending and victimisation has often been based upon self-report.
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Child sexual abuse (CSA) is one of the most serious public health problems among children and adolescents, owing to its widespread prevalence and serious health consequences. The present study aimed to assess the prevalence of, and characteristics and circumstances associated with, CSA. An epidemiological survey was conducted on a nationally representative sample of 6,787 ninth-grade students (15.5 ± .66 years of age) in Switzerland. Self-reported computer-assisted questionnaires were administered between September 2009 and May 2010. Various forms of sexual victimization were assessed using the newly developed Child Sexual Abuse Questionnaire. Overall, 40.2% and 17.2% of girls and boys, respectively, reported having experienced at least one type of CSA event. Lifetime prevalence rates were 35.1% and 14.9%, respectively, for CSA without physical contact, 14.9% and 4.8% for CSA with physical contact without penetration, and 2.5% and .6% for CSA with penetration among girls and boys. The most frequently experienced event was sexual harassment via the Internet. More than half of female victims and more than 70% of male victims reported having been abused by juvenile perpetrators. Depending on the specific event, only 44.4%-58.4% of female victims and 5.8%-38% of male victims disclosed CSA, mostly to peers. The present study confirms the widespread prevalence of CSA. The high prevalence of CSA via the Internet and the frequent reports of juvenile perpetrators suggest emerging trends in CSA. Low disclosure rates, especially among male victims, and reluctance to disclose events to family members and officials may impede timely intervention.
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Child sexual abuse (CSA) is considered a major risk factor for a variety of health problems both in childhood and in later adult life. While population-based surveys aim to establish the real incidence rates of CSA by interviewing potential (past) victims, agency surveys focus on the rates of CSA reported to the authorities. We conducted a nationwide agency survey of CSA in Switzerland. Data were collected from 350 agencies through an anonymous online form during a 6-month period. For data collection, we used a modified version of the case reporting form translated from the American National Incidence Study (NIS-4). About 2.68 cases of CSA per 1,000 children per year are disclosed to agencies (1.11 in males, 4.33 in females). This is roughly twice the average incidence rate reported in methodologically similar studies from Canada, the US, and Australia. In Switzerland, the majority of disclosed cases of CSA are handled by specialized yet semi-public agencies instead of public child welfare agencies or penal authorities. This fact might explain the higher disclosure rates.
Background Sexual maltreatment is one of the most common forms of child abuse. To identify risk factors for sexually abusive behaviour by adults, we prospectively assessed childhood experiences and personal characteristics of male child victims who became abusers in later life. Methods In a longitudinal study (7–19 years duration), we included 224 former male victims of sexual abuse. Risk factors contemporaneous with the abuse, and putative protective influences, were identified from social service and clinical records. Evidence of later criminal acts was obtained from a nationwide search of official records. Findings Of the 224 former victims, 26 had subsequently committed sexual offences (victim-abusers), in almost all cases with children, mainly outside their families. Risk factors during childhood for later offending included material neglect (odds ratio 3·4, 95% CI 1·2–9·7), lack of supervision (3·0, 1·1–8·3), and sexual abuse by a female person (3·0, 1·1–8·7). Victim-abusers had more frequently witnessed serious intrafamilial violence (3·1, 1·0–10·0). Six (29%) of 21 victim-abusers on whom we had relevant data had been cruel to animals (7·9, 2·0–31·4). No single putative protective factor, nor a composite protective index, significantly reduced the risk of paedophilic behaviour. Interpretation Most male victims of child sexual abuse do not become paedophiles, but particular experiences and patterns of childhood behaviour are associated with an increased risk of victims becoming abusers in later life. Our findings have implications for the design of selective interventions with a vulnerable subgroup of male victims, aimed at reducing the risk of paedophilic behaviour in later life.
Previous research has demonstrated that those who perpetrate violence and report aggression to be appetitive are less vulnerable to developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The current study examined the hypothesis that, among youth offenders living in a high-violence community, an attraction to violence is associated with improved psychosocial functioning and less concern about future threats. A sample of 69 male youth offenders living in two high-violence communities in Cape Town, South Africa, completed measures of trauma exposure, PTSD symptoms, appetitive aggression, reactive aggression, psychosocial functioning, and concerns about future threats. Higher PTSD symptoms predicted lower psychosocial functioning as well as more concern about future threats. However, participants high in appetitive aggression showed better functioning and fewer concerns about future threat. By contrast, reactive aggression was a significant predictor of reduced functioning and increased concerns about threat. These findings suggest that, for youth offenders living in contexts of ongoing violence exposure, appetitive aggression may serve a psychologically self-protective function. Implications for interventions with youth offenders living in high-violence communities are considered. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
Using a computer-administered interview, self-reports of past criminal behavior were obtained from 99 institutionalized sex offenders. The sample contained both rapists and child molesters who had been mandated to receive specialized treatment. Offenders disclosed an enormous amount of undetected sexual aggression, a finding consistent with other self-report studies. Also striking was the high rate and variety of nonsex offenses. According to interview responses, nearly 20,000 nonsex crimes were committed during the year prior to institutionalization, with rapists contributing a disproportionate share. Still, child molesters, including those whose only known crime was incest, were very active in assault and property crime. The potential for utilizing sex offender self-reports in empirical research is discussed. Preliminary evidence of validity is presented.