The mass media has the ability to shape public opinion on child sexual offenders. To date, research has found that offenses committed by female child sexual offenders have been portrayed in the media with undertones of sympathy and romanticization. With the apparent shift in gender roles toward gender egalitarianism, the aim of the present study was to obtain an up-to-date understanding of how female child sexual offenders are portrayed in the print media across western countries. The study utilized newspaper articles involving female child sexual offenders, published in English across western countries from 2012 to 2016 (N = 35 articles). A qualitative content analysis revealed two major themes: female child sexual offenders are dangerous and they are accountable for their actions. The findings of the current study are positive and shed light on the potential advancement of the reporting of female child sexual offenders in the print media at an international level.
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While the term “child sex offender” or “child sexual offender” could have been utilized, it would have been impractical to examine all newspaper reports (most on male child sexual offenders), internationally, over a 5-year period.
As the literature concerning gender roles changing away from traditional values has predominantly focused on research in western countries, articles from non-western countries were not included.
The offender’s age at the time of the newspaper publication is provided here rather than the offender’s age at the time of offense because the newspaper articles most consistently provided the offender’s age at time of publication. While most articles indicated when the crime occurred, there was not enough information provided to establish the offender’s exact age at the time of offense. Most crimes had, however, occurred within the past 5 years of the newspaper’s publication.
An average victim age cannot be provided as many articles did not provide the age of the victim. Rather, these articles indicated the child as a “baby”, “toddler” or “teenager”. In contrast to the offender’s age, the articles mainly reported on the victim’s age at the time of the offense, rather than their age at the time of the newspaper publication.
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The author would like to thank Ms. Katelyn Jansen for her invaluable assistance throughout the course of this project.
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The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.
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This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by the author.
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Christensen, L.S. The New Portrayal of Female Child Sexual Offenders in the Print Media: A Qualitative Content Analysis. Sexuality & Culture 22, 176–189 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-017-9459-1