Punitive Attitudes Against Pedophiles or Persons With Sexual Interest in Children: Does the Label Matter?
- 2.8k Downloads
In the present research, we addressed the question of whether people harbor punitive attitudes against individuals sexually interested in children even if no sexual offense is mentioned and whether this effect is amplified by the clinical label pedophilia. In two online studies (total N = 345), participants rated the extent to which they saw individuals sexually interested in children as necessarily committing child sexual abuse (dangerousness), responsible for their sexual interest (intentionality), and clinically disordered (deviance) before judging their endorsement of means of punishment (punitive attitudes). Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions in which either the “pedophilia” label or the descriptive term “sexual interest in (prepubescent) children” was included in all items. Across both studies, results showed high degrees of punitive attitudes against sexually deviant men, an effect that was particularly pronounced if the pedophilia label was present. Whereas this was only latently observable in Study 1 (concealed by a suppression effect of reduced ascriptions of intentionality), in Study 2 no such suppression was observed. Unlike any other stigma we know of, punitive attitudes against pedophiles were associated positively with social desirability, suggesting that participants saw it as particularly socially desirable to condemn someone based on their deviant sexual interest.
KeywordsPedophilia Sexual interest in children Punitive attitudes Stigma Labeling theory Suppression analysis
I would like to thank Sara Jahnke for valuable comments and the productive collaboration in constructing the scales.
- Beier, K. M., Ahlers, C. J., Goecker, D., Neutze, J., Mundt, I. A., Hupp, E., et al. (2009). Can pedophiles be reached for primary prevention of child sexual abuse? First results of the Berlin Prevention Project Dunkelfeld (PPD). Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 20, 851–867. doi: 10.1080/14789940903174188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: A new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 3–5. doi: 10.1177/1745691610393980.
- Golec de Zavala, A., Cichocka, A., & Bilewicz, M. (2013). The paradox of in-group love: Differentiating collective narcissism advances understanding of the relationship between in-group and out-group attitudes. Journal of Personality, 81, 16–28. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2012.00779.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Heatherton, T., Kleck, R., Hebl, M., & Hull, J. (2000). The social psychology of stigma. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Henderson, C., Evans-Lacko, S., Flach, C., & Thornicroft, G. (2012). Responses to mental health stigma questions: The importance of social desirability and data collection method. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 57, 152–160.Google Scholar
- Imhoff, R. (2014). Zeroing in on the effect of the schizophrenia label on stigmatizing attitudes: A large scale study. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
- Imhoff, R., & Banse, R. (2009). Ongoing victim suffering increases prejudice: The case of secondary anti-semitism. Psychological Science, 20, 1443–1447. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02457.x.
- Lam, A., Mitchell, J., & Seto, M. C. (2010). Lay perceptions of child pornography offenders. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 52, 173–201. doi: 10.1353/ccj.0.0087.
- Marshall, W. L. (1997). Pedophilia: Psychopathology and theory. In R. D. Laws & W. O’Donohue (Eds.), Sexual deviance: Theory, assessment, and treatment (Vol. 1, pp. 152–174). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Maruna, S., & King, A. (2009). Once a criminal, always a criminal? ‘Redeemability’ and the psychology of punitive public attitudes. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 15, 7–24. doi: 10.1007/s10610-008-9088-1.
- Scheff, T. (1999). Being mentally ill: Sociological theory (3rd ed.). Piscataway, NJ: Aldine Transaction.Google Scholar
- Schmidt, A. F., Gykiere, K., Vanhoeck, K., Mann, R. E., & Banse, R. (2014). Direct and indirect measures of sexual maturity preferences differentiate subtypes of child sexual abusers. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 26, 107–128. doi: 10.1177/1079063213480817.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Shapiro, D. N., Chandler, J., & Mueller, P. A. (2013). Using Mechanical Turk to study clinical populations. Clinical Psychological Science, 1, 213–220. doi: 10.1177/2167702612469015.