Online Child Pornography Offenders are Different: A Meta-analysis of the Characteristics of Online and Offline Sex Offenders Against Children


The current meta-analysis compared the characteristics of online child pornography-only offenders, typical (offline) sex offenders against children, and offenders with both child pornography and contact sex offences against children (mixed). Based on 30 unique samples (comparison ns ranging from 98 to 2,702), the meta-analysis found key differences between groups. Offenders who committed contact sex offences were more likely to have access to children than those with only child pornography offences. In contrast, offenders who used the internet to commit sexual offences had greater access to the internet than those with contact sex offenders. Differences between the groups, however, were not limited to differential opportunities. Sex offenders against children and mixed offenders were found to score higher on indicators of antisociality than online child pornography offenders (CPOs). CPOs were also more likely to have psychological barriers to sexual offending than sex offenders against children and mixed offenders (e.g., greater victim empathy). Mixed offenders were found to be the most pedophilic, even more than CPOs. The findings suggest that offenders who restricted their offending behavior to online child pornography offences were different from mixed offenders and offline sex offenders against children, and that mixed offenders were a particularly high risk group.

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    The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Public Safety Canada. Funding for this project was provided in part by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We would like to thank the following individuals for providing us with unpublished data or additional information for this meta-analysis: Till Amelung, Anne Burgess, David Delmonico, Liam Ennis, Ayten Erdogan, Erik Faust, Inge Hempel, Eric Imhof, Sandy Jung, Eva Kimonis, Paula Lopez, Hannah Merdian, Elicia Nademin, Olav Nielssen, Gerard Niveau, Yves Paradis, James Ray, Wineke Smid, and Gemma Wall.

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    Correspondence to Kelly M. Babchishin.

    Appendix: Definition of Psychological Variables

    Appendix: Definition of Psychological Variables

    See Table 12.

    Table 12 Studies and measures analyzed for psychological meta-variables

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    Babchishin, K.M., Hanson, R.K. & VanZuylen, H. Online Child Pornography Offenders are Different: A Meta-analysis of the Characteristics of Online and Offline Sex Offenders Against Children. Arch Sex Behav 44, 45–66 (2015) doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0270-x

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    • Sex offenders
    • Internet
    • Child pornography
    • Pedophilia
    • Paraphilias
    • Meta-analysis