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Child Pornography and Online Sexual Solicitation

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Purpose of Review

This review highlights recent literature regarding online sexual offending, including the prevalence, characteristics, a brief review of recent typology literature, victimization risk factors, risk factors of being a “crossover” offender, rates and risk factors for recidivism, and a discussion of prevention efforts.

Recent Findings

Online sexual offenders are overwhelmingly White men with relationship problems who were rarely previously arrested for felonies. They score lower on measures of antisocial behavior, compared to offenders who commit contact sexual offenses against children. Individuals who commit pornography offenses are at lower risk to commit contact offenses and their risk factors include having sexual interest in children and antisocial attitudes.


Online offenders are different from contact sexual offenders and from offenders who commit both types of offenses. Recidivism in online noncontact offenders is difficult to assess due to the lack of empirically supported tools and the inappropriateness of using popular actuarial tools that lack norms on these offenders, but a new measure (CPORT) is being studied for use with this population.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

  1. 1.

    • DeHart D, Dwyer G, Seto MC, Moran R, Letourneau E, Schwarz-Watts D. Internet Sexual solicitation of children: a proposed typology of offenders based on their chats, e-mails, and social network posts. J Sex Aggress. 2017;23:77–89. This paper is one of the first to examine typologies of individuals who commit online solicitation offenses.

  2. 2.

    Kloess JA, Woodhams J, Whittle H, Grant T, Hamilton-Giachritsis CE. The challenges of identifying and classifying child sexual abuse material. Sex Abus. 2018;31:173–96.

  3. 3.

    Adams W, Flynn A. Federal prosecution of commercial sexual exploitation of children cases, 2004–2013. NCJ 250746, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2017: Accessed 8/7/2019.

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    Wolak J, Liberatore M, Levine BN. Measuring a year of child pornography trafficking by U.S. computers on a peer-to-peer network. Child Abuse Negl. 2014;38:347–56.

  5. 5.

    • Babchishin KM, Hanson RK, VanZuylen H, et al. Arch Sex Behav. 2015;44:45–66. This is a large meta-analysis examining online sexual offenders.

  6. 6.

    Magaletta PR, Faust E, Bickart W, McLearen AM. Exploring clinical and personality characteristics of adult male internet-only child pornography offenders. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2014;58:137–53.

  7. 7.

    Morey LC. Personality assessment inventory professional manual (2nd ed.). Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, 1991, 2007.

  8. 8.

    Henshaw M, Ogloff JRP, Clough JA. Looking beyond the screen: a critical review of the literature on the online child pornography offender. Sex Abus. 2017;29:416–45.

  9. 9.

    Faust E, Bickart W, Renaud C, Camp S. Child pornography possessors and child contact sex offenders: a multilevel comparison of demographic characteristics and rates of recidivism. Sex Abus. 2015;27:460–78.

  10. 10.

    Burke A, Sowerbutts S, Blundell B, Sherry M. Child pornography and the internet: policing and treatment issues. Psychiatry Psychol Law. 2002;9:79–84.

  11. 11.

    Cortoni F, Hanson RK. A review of the recidivism rates of adult female sexual offenders (Research Report No. R-169). Ottawa: Correctional Service of Canada; 2005.

  12. 12.

    Cortoni F, Babchishin KM, Rat C. The proportion of sexual offenders who are female is higher than thought: a meta-analysis. Crim Justice Behav. 2017;44:145–62.

  13. 13.

    •• Bickart W, McLearen AM, Grady MD, Stoler K. A descriptive study of psychosocial characteristics and offense patterns in females with online child pornography offenses. Psychiatry Psychol Law. 2019;26:259–311. Important paper on female online sexual offenders.

  14. 14.

    Schulz A, Bergen E, Schuhmann P, Hoyer J, Santtila P. Online sexual solicitation of minors: how often and between whom does it occur? J Res Crime Delinq. 2016;2016(53):165–88.

  15. 15.

    Shelton J, Eakin J, Hoffer T, Muirhead Y, Owens J. Online child sexual exploitation: an investigative analysis of offender characteristics and offending behavior. Aggress Violent Behav. 2016;30:15–23.

  16. 16.

    Briggs P, Simon WT, Simonsen. An exploratory study of internet-initiated sexual offenses and the chat room sex offender: has the internet established a new typology of sex offender. Sex Abus. 2011;23:72–91.

  17. 17.

    • Chang FC, Chiu CH, Miao NF, Chen PH, Lee CM, Chiang JT. Predictors of unwanted exposure to online pornography and online sexual solicitation of youth. J Health Psychol. 2016;21:1107–18. Paper examining risk factors for being a victim.

  18. 18.

    •• de Santisteban P, Gámez-Guadix M. Prevalence and risk factors among minors for online sexual solicitations and interactions with adults. J Sex Res. 2018;55:393–950. Paper examining a more in-depth look at risk factors for being a victim.

  19. 19.

    • Houtepen JABM, Sijstema JJ, Bogaerts S. From child pornography offending to child sexual abuse: a review of child pornography offender characteristics and risks for cross-over. Aggress Violent Behav. 2014;19:466–73. Risk factors for being a ‘cross-over’ offender.

  20. 20.

    Seto MC, Eke AW. Predicting recidivism among adult male child pornography offenders: development of the child pornography offender risk tool (CPORT). Law Hum Behav. 2015;39:416–29.

  21. 21.

    •• Eke AW, Helmus LM, Seto MC. A validation study of the child pornography offender risk tool (CPORT). Sex Abus. 2019;3:456–76. Validation of the CPORT.

  22. 22.

    Wurtele SK, Kenny MC. Technology-related sexual solicitation of adolescents: a review of prevention efforts. Child Abuse Rev. 2016;25:332–4.

  23. 23.

    Steel CMS. Web-based child pornography: the global impact of deterrence efforts and its consumption on mobile platforms. Child Abuse Negl. 2015;44:150–8.

  24. 24.

    Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, Pub. L. No. 105–314, H.R. 3494 – 105th Cong.

  25. 25.

    PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110–401, S. 1738, 110th Cong.

  26. 26.

    Effective Child Pornography Prosecution Act of 2007, Pub. L. No. 110–358, H.R. 4120, 110th Cong. (2008).

  27. 27.

    Hanson RK, Morton-Bourgon KE. The characteristics of persistent sexual offenders: a meta-analysis of recidivism studies. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2005;73:1154–63.

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    Phenix A, Fernandez Y, Harris AJR, Helmus M, Hanson RK, Thornton D. Static-99R coding rules revised. 2016.

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Correspondence to Emily D. Gottfried.

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Emily D. Gottfried, Emily Knight Shier, and Abby L. Mulay declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Sexual Disorders

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Gottfried, E.D., Shier, E.K. & Mulay, A.L. Child Pornography and Online Sexual Solicitation. Curr Psychiatry Rep 22, 10 (2020).

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  • Child pornography
  • Online sexual solicitation
  • Online sexual offending