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Emotions and Cognitions Associated with the Stigma of Non-Offending Pedophilia: A Vignette Experiment

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Cognitive and affective antecedents of the desire to avoid or punish non-offending pedophilic individuals are not well understood. In this article, we examined the effects of non-offending motivation (internal vs. external) and sexual orientation (pedophilic vs. teleiophilic) on cognitive apprehensions (amorality, dangerousness, abnormality), emotions (fear, anger, disgust), punitive attitudes, and social distance towards a man experiencing a sexually transgressive impulse. Two hundred and five US-based MTurk workers were randomly assigned to one of four groups in this 2 x 2 factorial vignette study. As expected, pedophilic orientations and extrinsic non-offending motivations led to stronger negative apprehensions and emotions, as well as higher social distance and punitive attitudes. When controlling for the other emotions, disgust mediated the effect of pedophilic orientation on social distance, while anger and fear mediated the effect of non-offending motivation on punitive attitudes. Disgust, fear, and anger were furthermore differentially associated with perceived amorality, dangerousness, and abnormality. This research helps clarify why desires to punish or avoid non-offending pedophilic men are so strong, even when they never commit sexual crimes.
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Emotions and Cognitions Associated with the Stigma of Nonoffending Pedophilia: A
Vignette Experiment
Sara Jahnke
Technische Universität Dresden, Institute for Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Address for correspondence:
Sara Jahnke, Technische Universität Dresden
Institute for Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Hohe Str. 53, 01187 Dresden, Germany
e-mail: sara.jahnke@tu-dresden.de
Acknowledgement
The author is indebted to Dr. Ralph Massarczyk for his help with the data collection
and Brittany Smelquist for her excellent copy-editing.
ABSTRACT
Cognitive and affective antecedents of the desire to avoid or punish non-offending
pedophilic individuals are not well understood. In this article, we examined the effects of non-
offending motivation (internal vs. external) and sexual orientation (pedophilic vs. teleiophilic)
on cognitive apprehensions (amorality, dangerousness, abnormality), emotions (fear, anger,
disgust), punitive attitudes, and social distance towards a man experiencing a sexually
transgressive impulse. Two hundred and five US-based MTurk workers were randomly
assigned to one of four groups in this 2 x 2 factorial vignette study. As expected, pedophilic
orientations and extrinsic non-offending motivations led to stronger negative apprehensions
and emotions, as well as higher social distance and punitive attitudes. When controlling for
the other emotions, disgust mediated the effect of pedophilic orientation on social distance,
while anger and fear mediated the effect of non-offending motivation on punitive attitudes.
Disgust, fear, and anger were furthermore differentially associated with perceived amorality,
dangerousness, and abnormality. This research helps clarify why desires to punish or avoid
non-offending pedophilic men are so strong, even when they never commit sexual crimes.
Key words: Stigma; pedophilia; paraphilia; social distance; discrimination
INTRODUCTION
Few human characteristics are as feared and despised as a sexual attraction to
prepubescent children (pedophilia). Recent research has documented that the mere
information that someone has pedophilic interests is sufficient to elicit strong desires to avoid
or punish this person, even when no offenses are mentioned (Imhoff, 2015; Jahnke, Imhoff, &
Hoyer, 2015). Yet, Jahnke and Hoyer (2013) have cautioned that it is “uncertain if and how
much the label paraphilia influences people’s perception of individuals tainted with it when
other personality traits […] are brought into play” (p. 178). As the aforementioned studies did
not provide further information about the person experiencing a sexual interest in children,
participants might have attributed the non-offending status to a lack of opportunities for
offending, or selfish reasons like fearing punishment. As the present study is intended to help
understand what it is about pedophilia that elicits such stigmatizing reactions, we will assess
the effect of a person’s motivation to resist sexual urges (intrinsic vs. extrinsic) and sexual
orientation (teleiophilia, that is, a sexual interest in adults vs. pedophilia) on negative
apprehensions and emotions as well as social distance and punitive attitudes. Since research
on sexual morality has found desires to avoid or punish to be focused on different kinds of
emotional and cognitive elicitors (Giner-Sorolla, Bosson, Caswell, & Hettinger, 2012), we
will furthermore test whether negative emotions (fear, disgust, and anger) differentially
mediate the link between our experimental conditions and desires to avoid or punish, and
explore associations between these emotions and perceived amorality, abnormality, and
dangerousness.
Pedophilia has been referred to as the sexual orientation of men or woman who “report
a subjective awareness of being erotically attracted (either exclusively or in part) toward […]
prepubescent children” (Berlin, 2014, p. 406). Labeling a sexual interest in children as a
sexual orientation is controversial. The American Psychiatric Association has stated its
intention to no longer refer to pedophilia as a sexual orientation in forthcoming prints of the
DSM-5 as a response to public criticism (Berlin, 2014). However, as we believe that
pedophilia is essentially a sexual orientation (as defined by certain characteristics such as
stability, start in early adolescence, and the existence of corresponding romantic interests,
Seto, 2012) and that acknowledging this can help to decrease stigmatization and to
differentiate between sexual attraction and criminal behavior (Berlin, 2014), we will refer to
pedophilia as a “sexual orientation” throughout this article. Only when sexually arousing
fantasies or urges involving sexual acts with prepubescents lead to marked distress,
interpersonal difficulty or corresponding sexual behavior (i.e., sexual offenses against
children or child pornography offenses), diagnostic criteria for a pathological form of
pedophilia (termed pedophilic disorder) are fulfilled (American Psychiatric Association,
2013). Although pedophilic men are at an increased risk of committing corresponding sexual
offenses (Mann, Hanson, & Thornton, 2010), pedophilic fantasies are neither necessary nor
sufficient to explain sexual offending (M. J. Bailey, Hsu, & Bernhard, 2016; Dombert et al.,
2016).
Nevertheless, negative reactions towards people with a pedophilic sexual orientation
are intense and widespread. This fierce stigma has been assumed to not only create distress
among pedophilic individuals, but also to undermine efforts to prevent sexual offenses against
children, as emotional problems and social isolation increase the risk of such offenses
(Harper, Bartels, & Hogue, 2016; Jahnke & Hoyer, 2013; Jahnke, Schmidt, Geradt, & Hoyer,
2015). People from the general public report strong intentions to discriminate against these
individuals by socially avoiding them (Feldman & Crandall, 2007; see also Jahnke, Imhoff, et
al., 2015), or by calling for harsh punishments (Imhoff, 2015). These discriminatory
behavioral intentions towards pedophilic individuals might be based on fear, anger, or disgust
(see, e.g., Giner-Sorolla et al., 2012 and Rüsch, Angermeyer, & Corrigan, 2005 for a
discussion of the role of different emotions in producing stigma or moral condemnation). As
basic emotions (Ekman & Cordaro, 2011), fear, anger, and disgust have been proposed to be
associated with different cognitive elicitors and to serve different social and non-social
functions (Keltner & Haidt, 1999; Marks & Nesse, 1994). In the following sections, we will
discuss the potential role of these emotions in creating the desire to avoid or punish people
with pedophilic interests who do not commit sexual offenses.
Are Desires to Avoid or Punish Based on Fear?
Fear motivates the individual to avoid or withdraw from potentially dangerous
situations (Ekman & Cordaro, 2011; Marks & Nesse, 1994). This emotion has been associated
with perceived dangerousness of people with mental disorders (as potential cognitive elicitor)
and intentions of social avoidance (as potential behavioral consequence) by several
independent research teams in different countries (e.g., Angermeyer & Matschinger, 2003;
Corrigan, Markowitz, Watson, Rowan, & Kubiak, 2003). Fearful or avoidant reactions
towards non-offending people with pedophilia might be based on the apprehension that the
mere fact of never having acted on pedophilic interests does not guarantee that a person will
continue to do so in the future. Given that age is one of the most important predictors of
offending behavior among pedophilic men (J. M. Bailey, Bernhard, & Hsu, 2016), this is an
understandable concern. Hence, it is not surprising that about 62% of the German and 59% of
the US-American respondents in Jahnke, Imhoff, et al. (2015) felt afraid when thinking about
people with pedophilia. Parents of children below the age of consent, who have more reason
to fear child sexual abuse, reported an increased likelihood to avoid non-offending pedophilic
men on a social distance scale (but note that the effects were small, Jahnke, Imhoff, et al.,
2015). Yet, it is important to take into consideration that in addition to predicting fear and
desires to avoid, the stereotype of dangerousness has also been consistently shown to predict
anger and/or calls for punishment regarding pedophilic individuals (Feldman & Crandall,
2007; Imhoff, 2015; Jahnke, Imhoff, et al., 2015).
Are Desires to Avoid or Punish Based on Anger?
In contrast to fear, anger is associated with a tendency to approach and punish the
perpetrator of an immoral act (Russell & Giner-Sorolla, 2013). The strength of angry
reactions has been shown to depend very much on the person’s cognitive apprehension of an
event as harmful or unjust (Russell & Giner-Sorolla, 2013; but note that perceived
dangerousness has also been found to be associated with anger, Angermeyer & Matschinger,
2003). Because of anger’s flexibility and context-sensitivity as well as people’s greater
awareness of why they feel anger as opposed to disgust, anger has been dubbed a relatively
“reasoned” emotion (Russell & Giner-Sorolla, 2013). The great majority of participants in
Jahnke, Imhoff, et al. (2015) experienced anger (even more so than fear) when thinking about
individuals experiencing sexual interests in children, although there was no mention of
offending or other unjust acts. The intensity of punitive behavioral intentions regarding
pedophilic individuals has also been described as remarkable (Imhoff, 2015). For instance,
some authors have argued that beliefs about the perceived intentionality of or personal
responsibility for pedophilic interests might have elicited anger (but note that empirical
evidence has produced mixed results regarding the link between this stereotype and
discriminatory intentions (Feldman & Crandall, 2007; Imhoff, 2015; Imhoff & Jahnke, 2017;
Jahnke, Imhoff, et al., 2015). An alternative hypothesis that has not been assessed in previous
research is the assumption that sexual abstinence among pedophilic individuals may be
perceived as having been chosen for the wrong (e.g., selfish or immoral) reasons. If somebody
does not sexually offend against children because this person dreads negative consequences
for the self (extrinsic non-offending motivation), others are probably more likely to react
angrily than when this person shares society’s moral rejection of the act (intrinsic non-
offending motivation).
Are Desires to Avoid or Punish Based on Disgust?
Modern theories on the role of emotions in shaping moral judgments suggest that
disgust has evolved beyond its function to motivate the avoidance of, for instance, rotten
fruits, dead bodies, and other sources of pathogens into regulating moral and sexual behavior
(Tybur, Lieberman, Kurzban, & DeScioli, 2013). Rather than signaling “abstract
contamination threats that are not associated with the physical body,” there is compelling
evidence to support the claim that disgust is linked to “concrete, categorical violations of
bodily norms,” such as violations of sexual taboos (Russell & Giner-Sorolla, 2013, p. 336).
Previous observations indicate that avoidance of morally objectionable people is often fueled
by disgust (Russell & Giner-Sorolla, 2013). Experimentally induced disgust (e.g., via bitter
fluids, disgusting smells, hypnosis) has consistently been shown to lead to stronger
condemnation of moral transgressions (see Chapman & Anderson, 2013 for an overview of
the evidence). People who report to feel more disgust toward a variety of repulsive stimuli
also report more dislike of immigrants, ethnic minorities, and low-status groups (e.g., gay
men, poor people), even after controlling for fears of contracting disease (Hodson & Costello,
2007). In combination with the finding that a person merely desiring counter-normative
sexual acts is sufficient to increase disgust towards this person (Russell & Piazza, 2015),
disgust is likely to play a central role in motivating social avoidance of non-offending people
with pedophilia. While disgust has not been assessed in previous studies on stigmatization of
people with pedophilia, some authors have reported links between perceived rarity (Feldman
& Crandall, 2007) or deviance (Imhoff, 2015) of sexually desiring children and
discriminatory behavioral intentions. Both rarity and deviance are conceptually related to
abnormality, which has been demonstrated to mediate the effects of sexual immorality on
experiences of disgust (Giner-Sorolla et al., 2012; Russell & Piazza, 2015).
The Present Study
In the present vignette-based study, we manipulated the type of non-offending
motivation (intrinsic vs. extrinsic) and sexual orientation of men with sexually transgressive
impulses towards a female stranger. Previous research has established that fear (as opposed to
anger) plays a less dominant role in predicting social distance and punitive attitudes towards
people with pedophilia. Therefore, we will not manipulate aspects of the situation that might
have a primary effect on fear, such as dangerousness. We expect that punitive reactions are
stronger when the non-offending behavior is motivated by external (i.e., fear of being caught
and punished) rather than internal (i.e., having a corresponding moral conviction) factors.
Anger should primarily account for the effect of non-offending motivation on punitive
reactions, as it promotes aggression and is elicited in situations in which moral norms about
fairness or other people’s rights are violated (Russell & Giner-Sorolla, 2013). Desires to avoid
on the other hand are assumed to be elevated when the sexual orientation is pedophilic rather
than teleiophilic because the idea of (even non-offending) pedophilia violates normative rules
about the use of the body, which should activate disgust, irrespective of whether social norms
about harmfulness, fairness, or other people’s rights are violated (Russell & Giner-Sorolla,
2013). As disgust and fear also motivate avoidance, we expect these two emotions to explain
the link between sexual orientation and social distance. We furthermore explore the effects of
abnormality, amorality, and dangerousness appraisals on the link between sexual orientation,
non-offending motivation, and negative emotions.
METHODS
Participants and Procedure
Two hundred and five Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers followed the link
to the survey, attaining the minimum sample size required to detect small to moderate effect
sizes (f = 0.2, α = .05, β = .20), which was determined before data collection using G*Power
3.1 (Faul, Erdfelder, Lang, & Buchner, 2007). Participants were then randomly assigned to
one of the four experimental conditions in a 2 (non-offending motivation: internal vs.
external) x 2 (sexual orientation: pedophilic vs. teleiophilic) design. We included a
preemptive warning in the title that the task contained material which might be offensive to
some. Participants were predominantly male (58%), White (not including Hispanics, 69%),
heterosexual (85%), and held an Associate or Bachelor’s degree or higher (57%). On average,
participants were 33 years old (mean age, SD = 9 years, ranging from 20 to 60). Also, 20.5%
had children below the age of 14. Seventy-six percent of the participating men and women
rated themselves as liberal (i.e., indicated values of 6 or higher) on a one-item 10-point Likert
scale for political orientation ranging from conservative (1) to liberal (10). They received $1
for completing all questionnaires.
Experimental Manipulations
After giving informed consent to participate in the survey, participants read one out of
four vignettes describing a pedophilic or teleiophilic man (“Jim”) experiencing a sexually
transgressive impulse towards a girl/woman. Two aspects were manipulated orthogonally:
First, whether the vignette described Jim as pedophilic or teleiophilic and second, whether his
motivation to live offense-free was portrayed as intrinsic or extrinsic (all vignettes are shown
in the Appendix). After reading the vignette, participants rated their thoughts and emotions
towards Jim in the order that they appear in the Instruments section.
Instruments
Cognitive antecedents
Based on similar measures in Giner-Sorolla et al. (2012), we developed a scale to
assess amorality (item 1: “Jim is a bad person,” 5: “Jim has a flawed character”), abnormality
(item 3: “Jim is abnormal,” 4: “Jim is a pervert”), and dangerousness (2: “Jim is a dangerous
man,” 6: “Jim poses a threat to other people”) asking participants to which extent they agreed
with the presented statements regarding Jim on a 7-point Likert scale from not at all (1) to
very much (7). Although consisting of only two items each, internal consistency for the three
scales was excellent (amorality: α = .87, abnormality: α = .87, dangerousness: α = .97).
Fear, disgust, and anger
Participants rated nine different items describing the emotional states of anger (angry,
outraged, furious), fear (nervous, afraid, scared), and disgust (disgusted, grossed-out,
sickened). Afterwards, they viewed three photographed faces of the same woman portraying
fear, anger, and disgust (i.e., pictures KP_1148, KP_0760, and KP_0351 from the Warsaw Set
of Emotional Expressions, Olszanowski et al., 2015), rating the extent to which they felt each
of the three depicted emotions. We followed the approach described in Giner-Sorolla et al.
(2012) and conducted average scores from verbal ratings and their respective facial
counterparts (note that the three verbal ratings were averaged first to decrease their influence
on the sum score). All items are rated on a 7-point Likert scale (1-7) from do not agree at all
to completely agree. To help differentiate between these emotions, assessing linguistic and
non-linguistic indicators of moral anger and disgust (and, presumably, fear as another
negative emotion that might arise when judging scenarios involving the threat of bodily
violations) is recommended because English-speakers do not always differentiate well
between anger and disgust when describing their feelings (e.g., using the term “disgust”
metaphorically when speaking about a situation that is more likely to elicit anger, Gutierrez,
Giner-Sorolla, & Vasiljevic, 2012). Cronbach’s alpha indicated high internal consistencies for
the emotion words (fear: α = .95, anger: α = .96, disgust: α = .96) as well as the word/picture
compounds (fear: α = .78, anger: α = .92, disgust: α = .95). As expected, intercorrelations
between the three emotion compounds were high (between .75 for fear and disgust and .86 for
disgust and anger).
Social distance scale
This version of the social distance scale was introduced by Jahnke, Imhoff, et al.
(2015) to assess the desire for social avoidance of people with a sexual interest in children. Its
six items (e.g., “would accept these people as friends”) are rated on a 7-point Likert scale (1-
7) from do not agree at all to completely agree. Retest reliability of the German version of the
social distance scale is high (r = .89 with a test-retest interval of one week among 34 students
of the Technische Universität Dresden, Jahnke & Hoyer, 2017), and previous research could
establish that the scale was able to detect attitude changes in response to an anti-stigma-
intervention (Jahnke, Philipp, et al., 2015), providing strong evidence for its validity. As the
two last items from the scale appear to indicate more desire to punish than to socially avoid
(“should better be dead” and “should be incarcerated”), we did not include them in the
analyses to achieve a “purer” measure of social avoidance (note that internal reliability of the
remaining four items was excellent within the present study, α = .95). The first four items are
inversely recoded, so higher values reflect higher social distance.
Punitive attitudes
This scale was developed by Imhoff (2015) to assess desires to punish people with
pedophilia. Psychometric properties of the German version of the scale were tested among 34
students of the Technische Universität Dresden (Jahnke & Hoyer, 2017). Within the tested
student sample, retest-reliability was high (r = .84 with a one-week test-retest interval) and
concurrent validity could be established with a short form of the right wing authoritarianism
scale (Zick et al., 2008) assessing the desire to conform to group norms and to punish social
deviants and offenders (r = .54, p < .001). In this study, we only used items 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 11,
and 13 of this 13-item scale, as some of the original statements (e.g., “Citizens should have a
right to get informed if pedophiles move to their neighborhood”) did not make sense when
applied to non-offending teleiophilic men (see Appendix for a list of the items used in this
study). Furthermore, items were reformulated to refer to the man in the vignette, Jim (i.e.,
“People like Jim should be preemptively taken into custody”). Participants indicated their
agreement with all statements on a 7-point Likert scale (1-7) from do not agree at all to
completely agree. One item (“One should not condemn people like Jim too harshly”) needed
to be reverse-recoded, so that higher values on the mean score indicate stronger punitive
attitudes. With Cronbach’s α = .90, internal consistency within this study was excellent.
Social desirability
This 8-item scale (adapted from Ray, 1984) measures participants’ tendency to give
responses that are socially desirable but unlikely to be correct (e.g., disagreeing with the item
“Do you sometimes feel resentful when you don’t get you own way?”). Participants rated
statements as either false (1) or true (2). Item 1, 2, 5, and 6 were recoded before calculating an
average score. Internal consistency was high (Cronbach’s α = .80). Test-retest reliability is not
available for this measure. Participants scoring higher are considered to be more likely to give
responses that make them appear more favorably.
RESULTS
Due to randomization, the four experimental groups did not differ with respect to
participant sex (χ2 = 1.83, df = 3, p = .608), age (F(3) = 0.58, p = .632), social desirability
scores (F(3) = 0.27, p = .846), or the likelihood of being White (χ2 = .18, df = 3, p = .981),
heterosexual (χ2 = .35, df = 3, p = .950), having children (χ2 = 2.23, df = 3, p = .526), or
holding a Bachelor’s degree (χ2 = 2.45, df = 3, p = .484).
Analyses of variance were conducted to compare the effects of non-offending
motivation and sexual orientation on apprehensions, emotions, social distance, and punitive
attitudes (see Table 1 for a summary of means, standard deviations and statistical parameters
for comparisons). We found significant main effects of sexual orientation and non-offending
motivation on all tested variables. Thus, relative to respondents in the teleiophilia condition,
those who were told that Jim had pedophilic interests reported significantly more social
distance, punitive attitudes, fear, anger, and disgust as well as higher perceived abnormality,
amorality, and dangerousness. Participants in the external non-offending motivation condition
were more likely to report social distance, punitive attitudes, fear, anger, and disgust, and to
rate the man as more amoral, abnormal, and dangerous. Also, we observed an interaction
effect between sexual orientation and non-offending motivation for social distance and
perceived abnormality. Receiving the information that Jim did not commit a sexual crime
because he considered it immoral was associated with a smaller reduction in social distance
and perceived abnormality when Jim was described as pedophilic instead of teleiophilic. This
invites speculation whether the pedophilia label produces a reverse halo effect, in which
strongly negative apprehensions of one aspect of a person influence judgments about other
characteristics of that person’s character.
We conducted separate mediation analyses for social distance and punitive attitudes
using the PROCESS macro for SPSS. Each mediation analysis contained multiple
independent variables and mediators, following the guidelines for PROCESS described in
Hayes (2014). While negative emotion variables usually show overlapping variance, previous
research has detected unique effects of anger, while controlling for disgust and unique effects
of disgust, while controlling for anger (Russell & Giner-Sorolla, 2013). Following this
principle, we performed mediation analyses with fear, anger, and disgust as simultaneous
mediators. We tested the significance of indirect effects using bootstrapping procedures.
When the bias-corrected 95% confidence interval did not contain zero, statistical significance
at α < .05 was assumed (see Table 2). Disgust was the only significant mediator of the link
between sexual orientation and social distance (see Fig. 1 and Table 2), while fear and anger
were the only significant mediators of the effect between non-offending motivation and
punitive attitudes (see Fig. 2 and Table 2). Except for the role of fear as a mediator of the
association between non-offending motivation and punitive attitudes (instead of mediating the
link between sexual orientation and social distance), these results confirm our mediation
hypotheses. As sexual orientation also influenced anger and punitive attitudes, and non-
offending motivation influenced disgust and social distance (see Table 1), we explored
whether these effects were also mediated by fear, anger, and/or disgust through mediation
analyses. While we found that sexual orientation increased punitive attitudes through fear and
anger, we could not detect emotions that significantly mediated the effect of non-offending
motivation on social distance (see Fig. 1, Fig. 2, and Table 2).
We conducted multiple regression analyses to detect the unique contribution of
abnormality, amorality, and dangerousness (entered simultaneously as predictors of fear,
anger, and disgust, cf. Table 3 for bivariate correlations). Findings revealed that amorality, b
= 0.38, t(201) = 4.26, p < .001, and dangerousness, b = 0.49, t(201) = 7.46, p < .001,
significantly predicted anger, while abnormality did not, b = 0.10, t(201) = 1.43, p = .155.
Fear was significantly linked to dangerousness, b = 0.42, t(201) = 5.03, p < .001, and
abnormality, b = 0.21, t(201) = 2.43, p = .016, but not amorality b = 0.07, t(201) = 0.60, p =
0.551. Disgust was predicted by amorality, b = 0.48, t(201) = 4.96, p < .001, and abnormality,
b = 0.43, t(201) = 5.79, p < .001 but not dangerousness, b = 0.09, t(201) = 1.24, p = 0.217
(note that all b-values are unstandardized).
In Table 3, we explored links between all assessed variables, which revealed high
intercorrelations between apprehensions, emotion variables, social distance, and punitive
attitudes (with rs ranging between .58 - .88). Interestingly, only social desirability, participant
sex, and having children below the age of 14 showed some significant associations with
apprehensions, emotion variables, social distance, and/or punitive attitudes, while political
orientation, ethnicity, age, and participant sexual orientation were found to be unrelated to
these variables. Specifically, a higher tendency to give socially desirable responses was
associated with higher punitive attitudes and higher perceived dangerousness. On a
descriptive level, these associations were smaller, albeit in the same direction, when Jim was
portrayed as rejecting adult-child sex on moral grounds (r = .11, p = .281), as compared to
selfish reasons (r = .19, p = .061). Female participants were more likely to experience fear and
disgust and had a greater desire to punish Jim, which might be explained by the fact that the
transgressive impulses in the vignette were directed towards a female person. Lastly,
participants who had young children below the age of 14 had a higher probability to report
fear and punitive attitudes regarding Jim.
DISCUSSION
Desires to punish and to avoid men with sexually transgressive impulses are stronger
when these impulses are directed at girls instead of women, and when non-offending behavior
is motivated by desires to avoid punishment, as opposed to being motivated by a
corresponding moral conviction. Also, desires to avoid or punish a pedophilic man remain
elevated even when it is made clear that, in addition to not acting upon sexually transgressive
impulses, the person agrees with societal norms about adult-child sex and will never commit
sexual crimes. Nevertheless, further information about personal reasons for choosing not to
offend have the potential to alleviate negative views and emotions, as well as social distance
and punitive attitudes concerning pedophilic and teleiophilic men. Yet, knowing that someone
is believing in (and consistently acting in accordance with) societal norms does not produce
strong enough effects to counteract negative attitudes elicited by the information about
pedophilic (vs. teleiophilic) interests. This represents a novel contribution to the literature on
sexual morality, as it shows that moral anger also responds to “acts that harm others or
infringe on their rights or freedoms” (Giner-Sorolla et al., 2012, p. 1208), when these acts
remain restricted to fantasy and do not lead to actual injustice.
It is noteworthy that although we explicitly stated that the person in the vignette is
never going to commit a sexual crime, most participants were reluctant to believe this when
pedophilic desires were concerned, as evidenced by dangerousness ratings averaging around
the midpoint of the scale. While dangerousness ratings in this study were lower than in
previous research using US-American MTurk samples that did not mention future (sexual)
behavior (Imhoff, 2015; Jahnke, Imhoff, et al., 2015), the notion that a man with pedophilic
interests could manage to refrain from sexual offending appeared to be particularly hard to
believe. One participant in the pedophilia/intrinsic non-offending motivation condition sent us
a note stating that he was not convinced that it is possible for a man with pedophilic interests
to never “act out on his desire.” This indicates that many people are unaware of the fact that
numerous men with pedophilic interests have learned to deal with their desire within lawful
(and ethical) boundaries (J. M. Bailey et al., 2016; Beier et al., 2015; Dombert et al., 2016).
As a side note, participants reported rather accepting attitudes towards a heterosexual
man who resisted sexual offending against an adult woman because he thought it was
immoral. Although it is unlikely that participants considered sexually assaulting an adult
woman a trivial matter, they had no trouble believing in the man’s ability to resist offending,
as indicated by low rates of perceived dangerousness and fear. This suggests a general
awareness that most people are at some point subject to immoral sexual impulses and that
they are usually able to overcome them, at least when “common” heterosexual interests are
concerned. Also, dangerousness levels were generally elevated in the extrinsic motivation
condition, indicating beliefs that moral convictions regarding the wrongness of a desired yet
immoral behavior, rather than fear of punishment, are a better predictor of lawful behavior.
Yet, high dangerousness ratings may also reflect tendencies to reduce cognitive dissonance
(Festinger, 1957), which might arise when feeling a strong urge to reject or to punish a
person, who, at least by standards of liberal morality, does not deserve punishment or
ostracism.
This study also corroborated hypotheses about the processes underlying the link
between sexual orientation and non-offending motivation on one hand and desires to shun and
to punish on the other hand. Using mediation analyses, anger and fear were identified as the
primary emotions mediating the effect of non-offending motivation on punitive reactions,
while disgust mediated the effect of sexual orientation on social distance, which resonates
with the findings discussed in Russell and Giner-Sorolla's (2013) overview of the literature.
Therefore, while the three negative emotions were highly correlated, all appeared to be play a
unique part in shaping the public’s reaction towards men with sexually transgressive
impulses, especially pedophilic men, which manifests itself both in terms of social distance
and in terms of punitive attitudes. The three emotions were in turn associated with distinct
patterns of cognitive apprehensions, with fear being predicted uniquely by dangerousness, and
anger by amorality and dangerousness. Disgust was the only emotion predicted by
abnormality, which is again in line with previous research (Giner-Sorolla et al., 2012; Russell
& Piazza, 2015, but note that amorality was another significant predictor). Exploratory
analyses showed that anger and fear were also significant mediators of the link between
sexual orientation and punitive attitudes, while non-offending motivation did not exert an
effect on social distance through anger, fear, or disgust. Hence, while causality cannot be
assumed based solely on cross-sectional correlations, our research tentatively suggests that
discriminatory behavioral intentions towards pedophilic men are based on an interplay of
different negative emotions and cognitive apprehensions.
The present study could furthermore solidify the evidence that higher social
desirability is related to stronger punitive attitudes towards pedophilic men or, on a more
general level, non-offending men with sexually transgressive impulses (Imhoff, 2015).
Although one might expect that social desirable responding would be associated with inflated
reporting of tolerance, reactions towards non-offending men with pedophilia appear to be a
unique exception to this rule. Correspondingly, having a minority status (with regards to race
or sexual orientation), liberal values and a higher level of education did not affect ratings of
the man in the vignette, which resonates with previous observations that people with
pedophilia are strongly rejected even by people who otherwise express accepting attitudes
towards minority sexual orientations or paraphilic sexual interests (Furnham & Haraldsen,
1998; Imhoff & Jahnke, 2017).
Limitations and Outlook
Recruiting study participants via MTurk, we managed to achieve a sample that was
considerably more heterogeneous and less WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich,
and Democrat, Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010) than typical samples in social
psychological research. However, MTurk samples are neither representative of the US
population as a whole, nor of the MTurk workforce, as workers self-select the tasks they want
to work on. Participants in this study were younger and more educated than the general US-
American public. In line with MTurk policies, we included a warning in the title of our task
that it may contain adult content and set the requirement that workers possess an Adult
Content Qualification to confirm their willingness to work on content that might be offensive.
This requirement, along with the warning, might have precluded or deterred conservative or
religious MTurk workers, which might explain why most of our participants self-identified as
liberal. Furthermore, while our results and the high psychometric properties of our scales
generally speak for sufficient worker motivation, we cannot rule out that some participants
might have answered items at random or were inattentive (but note that a recent review of
opportunities and challenges involved in using MTurk comes to favorable conclusions
regarding data quality, Chandler & Shapiro, 2016). Also, the experimental setup of our study
cannot guarantee that the emotions identified as mediators are indeed causally related to
desires to punish or to avoid, which is a precondition for assuming mediation. This means that
we cannot rule out that other emotion variables or nonemotional factors not assessed in this
research might have been the true mechanism through which sexual orientation and non-
offending motivation indirectly exerted their effects (e.g., sadness, contempt, or decreased
levels of positive emotions like happiness, see also Marzillier & Davey, 2004 for a list of
emotions elicited by descriptions of sexual abuse). This criticism of course also applies to our
regression-based analyses of the links between cognitive apprehensions and emotional
reactions. Furthermore, we cannot rule out that making changes to the two main outcome
measures, social distance and punitive attitudes might have had a significant impact on the
results (but note that internal consistencies indicated good psychometric properties).
Recently, there has been an increased interest in anti-stigma campaigns that attempt to
reduce the stigma attached to pedophilia (Harper et al., 2016; Jahnke, Philipp, & Hoyer,
2015). As some may fear that stigma reduction increases the risk of child abuse, we would
like to address why we think that seeking to reduce the stigma attached to pedophilia is
worthwhile and ethical before discussing the implications of our findings for such programs.
Attempts to destigmatize pedophilia can be justified ethically because people with pedophilia,
like anybody else, deserve to be judged by their actions. As a pedophilic sexual attraction is
often conflated with sexual abusive behavior due to stigma, anti-stigma campaigns are a
legitimate strategy to help people from the general public or mental health personnel
understand the differences between these concepts and be more accepting of pedophilic
individuals who do not commit crimes. Aside from that, de-stigmatizing pedophilia might not
be detrimental for child abuse prevention, but in fact complement such efforts, thereby
providing another, more utilitarian, argument for the moral legitimacy of anti-stigma
campaigns. According to this perspective, stigma interferes with outreach and treatment,
promotes assimilation into subcultures that support adult-child sex as a way of finding
acceptance and self-worth, and creates a constant source of distress, which may, in turn,
reduce the ability to cope with problematic sexual impulses (Lasher & Stinson, 2016).
To intensify the effectiveness of anti-stigma campaigns, a deeper understanding of the
mechanisms leading to stigma, which the current study attempted to provide, are of pivotal
importance. Based on our findings, we suggest putting a stronger emphasis on providing
information about how pedophilic men can successfully desist offending, as this part appeared
to create incredulity among participants. Researchers should also be aware that reported
intentions to avoid appear to be primarily based on disgust, rather than fear or anger. Disgust,
as the current study, in line with as recent studies, suggests, is focused particularly strongly on
the perceived abnormality of an action or desire. It is also more likely to result from
associative learning and less likely to be based on external reasoning when compared to anger
(Russell & Giner-Sorolla, 2013), which implies a higher resistance to education-based anti-
stigma campaigns. While attitudes against sexual minorities like gay men or lesbian women
have changed tremendously over time, this was usually associated with more open attitudes
and less disgust towards the type of the desired sexual activity (e.g., same-sex intercourse
between consenting adult partners). If disgust is less likely to be influenced by reasoning or
changes in circumstances (Russell & Giner-Sorolla, 2011), it is probably less responsive to
being informed about differences between having a sexual interest in children and engaging in
sexual activities with children. Thus, in the context of pedophilic interests being incompatible
with moral ideals in current Western society, the ability of anti-stigma campaigns to reduce
disgust and social distance might be limited.
This is in line with recent evidence revealing that an educative clip on pedophilia (as
explained by a sexologist) did not lead to a change in viewers’ automatic affective responses
(Harper et al., 2016). A second video about a pedophilic man who speaks about his sexual
interests from a first-person perspective, however, significantly improved automatic affective
responses towards people with pedophilia. More research is needed to address whether these
effects would persist over time as well as if different types of antistigma campaigns
differentially influence different types of negative emotions. Nevertheless, Harper et al.’s
(2016) study raises hopes that even automatic, unreasoned responses might be changed by
carefully set-up antistigma campaigns. Yet, even if pessimistic accounts of disgust’s
responsiveness to change turns out to be more accurate, decreasing anger and punitive
attitudes and educating the public about the differences between sexual desires and sexual
offending remain valid and promising goals for such programs.
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APPENDIX
Appendix
Vignette 1: Pedophilia, intrinsic nonoffending motivation
While going on a walk, Jim sees a 9- or 10-year old girl, whom he has never met before,
walking towards him from the opposite direction. Jim, who is sexually interested in female
children, realizes that he finds her very attractive and feels a strong impulse to touch her
buttocks and her genital area while she is walking past him. As there are no witnesses it is
unlikely that he would be punished for this action. He does not do it though because he thinks
it is wrong and morally unacceptable. As he always behaves like that in similar situations, Jim
will never in his life harass another person or commit a sexual crime.
Vignette 2: Pedophilia, extrinsic nonoffending motivation
While going on a walk, Jim sees a 9- or 10-year old girl, whom he has never met before,
walking towards him from the opposite direction. Jim, who is sexually interested in female
children, realizes that he finds her very attractive and feels a strong impulse to touch her
buttocks and her genital area while she is walking past him. As there are no witnesses it is
unlikely that he would be punished for this action. He does not do it though because he is
afraid that he could possibly still be identified and punished. As he always behaves like that in
similar situations, Jim will never in his life harass another person or commit a sexual crime.
Vignette 3: Teleiophilia, intrinsic nonoffending motivation
While going on a walk, Jim sees a young woman, whom he has never met before, walking
towards him from the opposite direction. Jim, who is sexually interested in women, realizes
that he finds her very attractive and feels a strong impulse to touch her buttocks and her
genital area while she is walking past him. As there are no witnesses it is unlikely that he
would be punished for this action. He does not do it though because he thinks it is wrong and
morally unacceptable. As he always behaves like that in similar situations, Jim will never in
his life harass another person or commit a sexual crime.
Vignette 4: Teleiophilia, extrinsic nonoffending motivation
While going on a walk, Jim sees a young woman, whom he has never met before, walking
towards him from the opposite direction. Jim, who is sexually interested in women, realizes
that he finds her very attractive and feels a strong impulse to touch her buttocks and her
genital area while she is walking past him. As there are no witnesses it is unlikely that he
would be punished for this action. He does not do it though because he is afraid that he could
possibly still be identified and punished. As he always behaves like that in similar situations,
Jim will never in his life harass another person or commit a sexual crime.
Punitive Attitudes Scale
How do you think that society should deal with people like Jim?
(1) People like Jim should be preemptively taken into custody.
(2) One should not condemn people like Jim too harshly.
(3) People like Jim should be castrated.
(4) People like Jim should be sentenced for life as deterrence.
(5) People like Jim should be forced to undergo therapy.
(6) People like Jim should be chemically castrated.
(7) People like Jim should be sentenced to death as deterrence.
Item 2 is reverse-coded.
Figure 1. Unstandardized regression coefficients for the link between sexual orientation and
social distance/punitive attitudes. The unstandardized coefficients for the link between sexual
orientation and social distance/punitive attitudes, controlling for the effects of fear, anger, and
disgust, are in parentheses. Differing coefficients for the model involving punitive attitudes as
the dependent variable are bolded (note that coefficients for the links between sexual
orientation and the three mediators are shared, as both models were conducted on the same
bootstrapped samples).
* p < .05, *** p < .001
-0.02/ 0.14*
1.46***
0.13/ 0.49***
1.71***
1.39*** (0.14) / 1.18*** (0.27)
1.95***
0.55***/ -0.07
Sexual orientation
0 = teleiophilia
1 = pedophilia
Disgust
Anger
Fear
Figure 2. Unstandardized regression coefficients for the link between nonoffending
motivation and social distance/punitive attitudes. The unstandardized coefficient for the link
between nonoffending motivation and social distance/punitive attitudes, controlling for the
effects of fear, anger, and disgust, is in parentheses. Differing coefficients for the model
involving punitive attitudes as the dependent variable are bold (note that coefficients for the
links between nonoffending motivation and the three mediators are shared, as both models
were conducted on the same bootstrapped samples).
* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
Fear
0.85** (0.47**)/ 0.52* (0.15)
0.56***/ -0.05
0.51*
0.11/ 0.49***
-0.02/ 0.15*
0.66*
0.57
Nonoffending
motivaton
0 = intrinsic
1 = extrinsic
Disgust
Anger
Fear
Table 1: Descriptive statistics (M, SD) and results of analyses of variance for the effects of sexual orientation and nonoffending motivation
1df1 = 1, df2 = 201
2complete 6-item social distance scale as reported in previous studies (Imhoff, 2015; Jahnke, 2015), including two items assessing whether Jim “should be incarcerated” or “better
be dead” (Cronbach’s α = .89); to achieve a “purer” measure of social distance as opposed to punitive attitudes, all further analyses are based on the reduced 4-item social
distance scale.
Note that social distance is scaled from 1 to 7 (instead of 0 to 6) for better comparability with the other instruments in this survey.
Teleiophilic
Pedophilic
Analyses of variance
Intrinsic (n = 54)
Extrinsic (n = 56)
Intrinsic (n = 48)
Extrinsic (n = 47)
Sexual orientation
Nonoffending
motivation
Sexual orientation
x nonoffending
motivation
M (SD)
M (SD)
M (SD)
M (SD)
F1
p
F1
p
F1
p
Social distance
3.45 (1.79)
4.79 (1.95)
5.37 (1.71)
5.69 (1.49)
32.90
< .001
11.52
< .001
4.34
.038
Social distance
complete scale2
2.87 (1.41)
3.96 (1.58)
4.58 (1.51)
4.92 (1.38)
41.81
< .001
11.93
< .001
3.29
.071
Punitive attitudes
1.68 (1.10)
2.34 (1.42)
3.00 (1.49)
3.39 (1.64)
35.75
< .001
6.96
.009
0.46
.497
Fear
2.00 (1.36)
2.70 (1.69)
3.65 (1.80)
4.00 (1.81)
39.82
< .001
5.02
.026
0.52
.470
Disgust
2.52 (1.71)
3.69 (2.09)
5.10 (2.07)
5.03 (1.96)
50.87
< .001
3.98
.047
5.10
.025
Anger
2.02 (1.59)
3.17 (1.99)
4.24 (2.14)
4.39 (1.97)
40.59
< .001
5.79
.017
3.44
.065
Dangerousness
2.13 (1.63)
3.05 (2.02)
4.31 (2.06)
4.50 (1.86)
46.58
< .001
4.37
.038
1.92
.168
Abnormality
2.56 (1.76)
3.72 (1.93)
5.48 (1.64)
5.32 (1.71)
82.41
< .001
4.04
.046
7.04
.009
Amorality
2.32 (1.63)
3.52 (1.86)
4.50 (1.71)
4.81 (1.71)
50.88
< .001
9.56
.002
3.32
.070
Table 2: Mediation of the effect of sexual orientation and nonoffending motivation on social distance and
punitive attitudes through fear, anger, and disgust
DV: Social distance
DV: Punitive attitudes
Point
estimate
95% CI*
Point
estimate
95% CI*
Lower
Upper
Lower
Upper
IV: Sexual orientation
Fear
-0.03
-0.25
0.21
0.21
-0.01
0.48
Anger
0.22
-0.05
0.50
0.84
0.48
1.34
Disgust
1.07
0.67
1.58
-0.14
-0.44
0.10
Total
1.26
0.87
1.72
0.91
0.61
1.25
IV: Nonoffending motivation
Fear
-0.01
-0.11
0.06
0.08
0.001
0.24
Anger
0.07
-0.02
0.26
0.32
0.05
0.68
Disgust
0.32
-0.01
0.70
-0.03
-0.16
0.03
Total
0.38
-0.01
0.78
0.37
0.06
0.70
Note. IV = independent variable, DV = dependent variable
*bias-corrected confidence interval for indirect effects based on 10,000 bootstrapped samples
1 the exact value is 0.004, so the confidence interval for the indirect effect of fear does not contain 0.
Table 3: Bivariate Pearson or point-biserial correlations between all tested variables
Social distance
Punitive attitudes
fear
disgust
anger
dangerousness
abnormality
amorality
Fear
.58***
.65***
Disgust
.75***
.64***
.75***
Anger
.68***
.75***
.77***
.86***
Dangerousness
.67***
.72***
.74***
.79***
.87***
Abnormality
.70***
.65***
.69***
.85***
.80***
.81***
Amorality
.70***
.71***
.70***
.86***
.86***
.87***
.88***
Social
Desirability
.08
.14*
.05
.04
.13
.16*
.11
.09
Sex1
.07
.17*
.20**
.18**
.13
.10
.09
.09
Age
-.09
-.12
-.06
-.04
-.05
-.05
-.06
-.04
Educational level
1
-.04
-.12
-.08
.00
-.07
-.05
-.03
-.02
Participant
sexual
orientation1
.05
.02
-.01
.00
.03
.04
.05
.05
Ethnicity1
-.05
-.12
.01
-.02
-.04
-.06
-.02
-.06
Political
orientation
.00
-.11
.05
-.04
-.07
.00
.06
-.02
Children1
.09
.16*
.14*
.11
.12
.09
.04
.05
*** p < .001, ** p < .01, * p < .05
1categorical variables: Sex: 1 = male, 2 = female; educational level: 0 = lower than Bachelor’s or Associate degree, 1 = holding Bachelor’s or Associate degree or higher;
participant sexual orientation: 0 = homosexual or bisexual, 1 = heterosexual; ethnicity: 0 = non-White or White of Hispanic origin, 1 = White (not of Hispanic origin), children: 0
= no children below the age of 14, 1 = having children below the age of 14.
... Four items were taken from the Social Distance Scale (SDS; Jahnke et al., 2015a) assessing the preferred amount of social distance individuals would like to keep from persons with sexual interest in children (see Table 2 for item content; the two original items inquiring whether these persons were better off dead or to should be incarcerated were left out because they also tap into punitive attitudes which were assessed separately). The SDS has been shown to be associated with other stigmatizing attitudes toward individuals with sexual interest in children (Jahnke et al., 2015a;Jahnke, 2018b) and has consistently shown that people have preferences for larger social distances from people with pedophilia compared to various other stigmatized groups in community samples (Jahnke et al., 2015a;Lehmann et al., 2021) or controls with sexual interest in adults (Jahnke, 2018b). Internal consistency for the aggregated scale in the present study was good (McDonald's ω = .87; ...
... Four items were taken from the Social Distance Scale (SDS; Jahnke et al., 2015a) assessing the preferred amount of social distance individuals would like to keep from persons with sexual interest in children (see Table 2 for item content; the two original items inquiring whether these persons were better off dead or to should be incarcerated were left out because they also tap into punitive attitudes which were assessed separately). The SDS has been shown to be associated with other stigmatizing attitudes toward individuals with sexual interest in children (Jahnke et al., 2015a;Jahnke, 2018b) and has consistently shown that people have preferences for larger social distances from people with pedophilia compared to various other stigmatized groups in community samples (Jahnke et al., 2015a;Lehmann et al., 2021) or controls with sexual interest in adults (Jahnke, 2018b). Internal consistency for the aggregated scale in the present study was good (McDonald's ω = .87; ...
... Stigmatizing attitudes were particularly pronounced when the label pedophilia (vs. sexual interest in children) was used (Imhoff, 2015;Imhoff & Jahnke, 2018a, 2018b or when MAPs were portrayed as having committed sexual offenses (vs. not; Boardman & Bartels, 2018). ...
Article
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Minor-attracted persons (MAPs; i.e., people who are sexually interested in children and adolescents below the age threshold of legal consent for sexual activity) exhibit high psychological distress but report difficulties finding therapeutic help and are reluctant to start treatment due to fears of therapist stigmatization. This research sought to elucidate the link between outpatient therapists’ stigmatizing attitudes toward non-offending vs. offending MAPs and therapists’ willingness to treat MAPs as well as how stigmatization was related to treatment-relevant aspects such as perceived MAP treatment needs, treatment barriers, and specific MAP treatment skills. Results from a brief, anonymous online survey conducted among N = 427 Swiss outpatient therapists working in the primary healthcare system are reported. Although therapists were less stigmatizing than the general public, considerable individual differences in the stigmatization of non-offending MAPs emerged. Stigmatizing attitudes toward non-offending MAPs and a perceived lack of specific treatment competences were negatively related to therapists’ willingness to treat MAPs. A network analysis revealed direct links between subjectively perceived MAP treatment competence and treatment willingness and between treatment willingness and social distance attitudes. Other stigmatizing attitudes were only indirectly linked to treatment willingness through preferred social distance. It is a paradox that therapists believe that MAPs should greatly benefit from secondary prevention but many are unwilling to provide therapy (45% in case of non-offending MAPs vs. 63% in case of offending MAPs) or do not feel competent to provide MAPs with professional help (47% with and 88% of therapists without previous MAP treatment experience). Implications for increasing therapists’ treatment willingness are discussed.
... Four items were taken from the Social Distance Scale (SDS; Jahnke, Imhoff et al., 2015) assessing the preferred amount of social distance individuals would like to keep from individuals with sexual interest in children (see Table 3 for item content; the two original items inquiring whether these persons were better off dead or to should be incarcerated were left out because they also tap into punitive attitudes which were assessed separately). The SDS has been shown to be associated with other stigmatizing attitudes towards individuals with sexual interest in children (Jahnke, Imhoff et al., 2015;Jahnke, 2018b) and has consistently shown people have preferences for larger social distances from people with pedophilia compared to various other stigmatized groups in community samples (Lehmann et al., 2021;Jahnke, Imhoff et al., 2015) or controls with sexual interest in adults (Jahnke, 2018b). Internal consistency for the aggregated scale in the present study was good (McDonald's ω = .87; ...
... Four items were taken from the Social Distance Scale (SDS; Jahnke, Imhoff et al., 2015) assessing the preferred amount of social distance individuals would like to keep from individuals with sexual interest in children (see Table 3 for item content; the two original items inquiring whether these persons were better off dead or to should be incarcerated were left out because they also tap into punitive attitudes which were assessed separately). The SDS has been shown to be associated with other stigmatizing attitudes towards individuals with sexual interest in children (Jahnke, Imhoff et al., 2015;Jahnke, 2018b) and has consistently shown people have preferences for larger social distances from people with pedophilia compared to various other stigmatized groups in community samples (Lehmann et al., 2021;Jahnke, Imhoff et al., 2015) or controls with sexual interest in adults (Jahnke, 2018b). Internal consistency for the aggregated scale in the present study was good (McDonald's ω = .87; ...
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Minor-attracted persons (MAPs; i.e., people who are sexually interested in children and adolescents below the age threshold of legal consent for sexual activity) exhibit high psychological distress but report difficulties finding therapeutic help and are reluctant to start treatment due to fears of therapist stigmatization. This research sought to elucidate the link between outpatient therapists’ stigmatizing attitudes towards non-offending vs. offending MAPs and therapists’ willingness to treat MAPs as well as how stigmatization was related to treatment-relevant aspects such as perceived MAP treatment needs, treatment barriers, and specific MAP treatment skills. Results from a brief, anonymous online survey conducted among N = 427 Swiss outpatient therapists working in the primary healthcare system are reported. Although therapists were less stigmatizing than the general public, considerable individual differences in the stigmatization of non-offending MAPs emerged. Stigmatizing attitudes towards non-offending MAPs and a perceived lack of specific treatment competences were negatively related to therapists’ willingness to treat MAPs. A network analysis revealed direct links between subjectively perceived MAP treatment competence and treatment willingness and between treatment willingness and social distance attitudes. Other stigmatizing attitudes were only indirectly linked to treatment willingness through preferred social distance. It is a paradox that therapists believe that MAPs should greatly benefit from secondary prevention but many are unwilling to provide therapy (45% in case of non-offending MAPs vs. 63% in case of offending MAPs) or do not feel competent to provide MAPs with professional help (47% with and 88% of therapists without previous MAP treatment experience). Implications for increasing therapists’ treatment willingness are discussed.
... For Participant 3, fear related to this lack of understanding is further intensified by the sexual abuse experienced within her family, and a concern about what this might mean for how her family may begin to view her. Although this fear may be warranted in that members of the public do appear to ascribe traits related to abnormality and dangerousness to individuals identified as being minor-attracted (Jahnke, 2018), there is no evidence of more punitive attitudes toward this group among victims of child sexual abuse (or their families). Indeed, there is some evidence to the contrary, whereby in some cases abuse occurs within the home, which leads to the media stereotype of individuals who commit sexual offenses to be disrupted (Harper et al., 2017;King & Roberts, 2017; for a discussion of how the process of anti-stereotype humanization can decrease stigma toward MAPs, see . ...
... This study further highlights how current services for minorattracted individuals are inadequate (B4U-ACT, 2011a; Cantor & McPhail, 2016;Seto, 2012;Levenson et al., 2019;Lievesley & Harper, 2021). Although wider society (and many aspects of the professional clinical community) might see the behavioral control of sexual attractions as a key concern (Jahnke, 2018;Walker et al., 2021), this was barely mentioned by our participants. Instead, coping with the absence of romantic or intimate experiences, loneliness, poor self-concept, and stigma-related stress were more pressing worries (see also B4U-ACT, 2011a;Dymond & Duff, 2020;Elchuk et al., 2021;Jahnke et al., 2015b;Lievesley & Harper, 2021;Martijn et al., 2020), which again might indicate a difference based on gender. ...
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The current body of the literature studying minor-attracted persons (MAPs) predominantly focuses on the experiences of men who experience sexual attractions to children. To shed more light on the experiences of women within this population, we conducted anonymous semi-structured interviews with six self-identified female MAPs, who were recruited through online support forums for individuals with sexual attractions to children. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to analyze the interview transcripts. Two superordinate themes were identified from the dataset that highlighted the uniqueness of the experience of being a woman within the MAP community (“A minority within a minority”) and themes of social isolation and the effects of this on identity (“A lonely secret existence”). The findings reported here highlight how the experiences of female MAPs both converge with and diverge from their male counterparts in important ways. We discuss the implications of these experiences in relation to more effective service provision for women who are sexually attracted to children.
... Although this fear may be warranted in that members of the public do appear to ascribe traits related to abnormality and dangerousness to individuals identified as being minorattracted (Jahnke, 2018), there is no evidence of more punitive attitudes towards this group among victims of child sexual abuse (or their families). Indeed, there is some evidence to the contrary, whereby in some cases abuse occurs within the home, which leads to the media stereotype of individuals who commit sexual offenses to be disrupted (Harper et al., 2017;King & Roberts, 2017; for a discussion of how the process of antistereotype humanization can decrease stigma towards MAPs, see . ...
... This study further highlights how current services for minor-attracted individuals are inadequate (B4U-ACT, 2011a; Cantor & McPhail, 2016;Seto, 2012;Levenson et al., 2019;Lievesley & Harper, 2021). Although wider society (and many aspects of the professional clinical community) might see the behavioral control of sexual attractions as a key concern (Jahnke, 2018;Stephens et al., 2021;Walker et al., 2021), this was barely mentioned by our participants. Instead, coping with the absence of romantic or intimate experiences, loneliness, poor self-concept, and stigma-related stress were more 24 pressing worries for this group (see also B4U-ACT, 2011a; Dymond & Duff, 2020;Elchuk et al., 2021;Jahnke et al., 2015b;Lievesley & Harper, 2021;Martijn et al., 2020). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
The current body of literature studying minor-attracted persons (MAPs) predominantly focuses on the experiences of men who experience sexual attractions to children. To shed more light on the experiences of women within this population, we conducted anonymous semi-structured interviews with six self-identified female MAPs, who were recruited through online support forums for individuals with sexual attractions to children. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to analyze the interview transcripts. Two superordinate themes were elicited from the dataset that identified themes of social isolation and the effects of this on identity (“A lonely secret existence”) and the uniqueness of the experience of being a woman within the MAP community (“A minority within a minority”). The findings reported here highlight how the experiences of female MAPs both converge with and diverge from their male counterparts in important ways. We discuss the implications of these experiences in relation to more effective service provision for female MAPs.
... A number of researchers have recently begun to study the social stigmatization of people with sexual interests in minors. For example, Jahnke and colleagues have reported how stigmatization of this population is reflected in (cognitively-oriented) perceptions of the controllability and willful choice over having pedophilic sexual interests (Imhoff, 2015;Imhoff & Jahnke, 2018;Jahnke, 2018aJahnke, , 2018b, and attributions of psychopathic or predatory offending behavior (Jahnke, Imhoff, & Hoyer, 2015). Stigmatizing attitudes may be related to the popular conflation between pedophilia and child sexual abuse (Feelgood & Hoyer, 2008;Harrison et al., 2010). ...
... While this may be seen as a limitation in terms of the generalizability of the conclusions that we draw, these relatively small effects might be expected. That is, attitudes toward people with these sexual interests are deeply-engrained, and not very easily changeable Imhoff & Jahnke, 2018;Jahnke, 2018b). Given that we only used a brief five-minute intervention in this work, we are encouraged that even this can bring about statistically significant improvements in attitudes that persist longer than an immediate post-manipulation testing Slater & Rouner, 2002). ...
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The stigmatization of people with pedophilic sexual interests is the topic of growing academic and professional consideration, owing to its potential role in moderating pedophiles' emotional wellbeing, and motivation and engagement in child abuse prevention schemes. Thus, improving attitudes and reducing stigmatization toward this group is of paramount importance. Prior research has suggested that narrative humanization-presenting personal stories of self-identified non-offending pedophiles-could be one route to doing this. However, this work has only been conducted with students or trainee psychotherapists, meaning the public generalizability of this method is still unknown. In this study, we compared two stigma interventions to test whether narratives reduce stigma toward people with pedophilic interests more effectively than an informative alternative (scientific information about pedophilia). Using a longitudinal experimental design with a lack of non-intervention control (initial N = 950; final N = 539), we found that narratives had consistently positive effects on all measured aspects of stigmatization (dangerousness, intentionality), whereas an informative alternative had mixed results, and actually increased perceptions of pedophiles' levels of deviance. These effects were also still present four months after the initial presentation. We discuss these data in relation to ongoing debates about treating pedophilia as a public health issue requiring a broad societal approach to wellbeing and child abuse prevention.
... Such an association is complex and additional barriers exist that may impact the association between maladaptive coping and treatment motivation (e.g., Litt et al., 2003). One factor that may impact the proposed association between maladaptive coping and treatment motivation is stigma, as there is extensive evidence of the negative public perception of individuals who are sexually attracted to children (e.g., Feldman & Crandall, 2007;Freimond, 2013;Furnham & Haraldsen, 1998;Grady et al., 2018;Jahnke et al., 2015a;Jahnke, 2018;Levenson & Grady, 2019;Levenson et al., 2017), which can then be internalized (Elchuk et al., in press). ...
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There is a need for community treatment programs for people who are sexually attracted to children, but individuals report difficulty accessing services. Individuals who are sexually attracted to children (n = 293) completed an online anonymous survey that revealed a significant positive association between maladaptive coping and two factors of the treatment motivation measures. The association between maladaptive coping and treatment motivation was attenuated at higher levels of ego dystonic distress/aversion. Results highlight the importance of targeting stigma toward those who are sexually attracted to children to increase treatment seeking behavior.
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Public stigma towards people with prison records hinders reentry initiatives. Although it is widely discussed in corrections, its measurement has been study-specific. Based on existing literature, we develop and test a multidimensional public stigma scale. We examine the factor structure and dimensionality of the scale using a Qualtrics Panel sample of U.S. adults (N = 1,216) and exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, which show that 17 of the 20 proposed scale items produce a four-factor structure, including danger/distrust, dehumanization, dispositional crime attributions, and social/emotional distance. We assess construct validity by testing the relationship between public stigma and theoretical antecedents and expected support for policy outcomes. Results show that public stigma is positively related to belief in evil and racial resentment and negatively related to personal and vicarious arrest experiences; it is also positively related to support for disenfranchisement and punitive policies and negatively related to support for rehabilitative policies.
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This study examined whether the attitudinal responses toward child sexual abuse (CSA) differ due to the person's relationship with the victim (intrafamilial vs. extrafamilial) and/or proximity to the victim (close vs. distant). An online sample of 292 participants completed a measure assessing pre-existing attitudes toward people who commit sexual offenses, before being randomly presented with a vignette describing a CSA case committed by a biological father, biological uncle, babysitter, stranger, or stepfather. Participants then rated the perpetrator's level of dangerousness and pedophilic interest, their own feelings of disgust, and their punitive judgments. Controlling for pre-existing attitudes, the extrafamilial cases (stranger and babysitter) were perceived to be more dangerous (large effects; ds > .50) and more pedophilic than the stepfather (large effects; ds > .60). Also, participants reported greater levels of disgust toward the stranger than both the babysitter and uncle (medium effects; ds > .30). The findings demonstrate the need to account for the established heterogeneity of men who commit CSA when studying the public's attitudinal responses. Methodological limitations and suggestions for future research are also discussed.
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People with paedophilia are a highly stigmatised group-even more so over recent years in which reports of child sexual abuse have risen, and sensationalist media coverage intensified. For people with paedophilia, whom many assume to also be sex offenders, the risk of exposure to prejudice-driven crime is high. In this article, I pose the question of whether people with paedophilia should be included in hate crime legislation across the world. I conclude that they should be included under the so-called vulnerability-and-deinvididualisation approach that I suggest in this paper. According to this approach, groups should be protected by hate crime legislation, if they are discriminated against significantly more often than groups who only experience prejudice-driven crimes on a rare basis (vulnerability). Furthermore, they should only be protected if the crime is targeted towards a whole group instead of a specific individual (deinvidualisation). However, via a subclause, this approach excludes certain groups who would fall under the two outlined premises but whose attributes harm the ideals of a pluralistic society that hate crime legislation seeks to foster. I conclude with broader implications on victim inclusion criteria. The boundaries of victim protection criteria 2
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