Sexual Offenders Against Children: The Influence of Personality and Obsessionality on Cognitive Distortions

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Abstract

Sexual offenders against children are generally inadequate in their social functioning and diverse in their psychopathology. The degree to which this inadequate functioning and psychopathology influences therapeutic interventions brings into question the belief that generic nonclinical programmatic treatment work is always appropriate for such a cohort. The Sex Offenders Assessment Package (SOAP) measures inadequate social functioning and sexual deviance, but has not been linked to broader individual differences and generic psychopathology. We collected information examining the relationship between the SOAP and standard measures of personality (the NEO-FFI) and obsessive-compulsiveness (MOCI) in a sample of 200 sexual offenders against children seen by the Probation Service. Factor analysis was used to reduce the SOAP to three reliable factors: emotional distress, cognitions supporting sex with children, and concern for others. These factors correlated respectively with higher Neuroticism and lower Extroversion; greater obsessive-compulsiveness on the MOCI, and trait Agreeableness, irrespective of whether or not one corrected for socially desirable responding. When partial correlation controlled for the influence of Neuroticism on the correlation between cognitions supporting sex with children and the MOCI, there was no change in the association between these variables. These results show that negative affect and obsessional tendencies are important underlying influences on the feelings and behavior of sexual offenders, that the obsessionality of the group is not attributable to Neuroticism, and suggest useful additional foci to enhance the treatment of this diverse clinical group.