Dr Merdian guest edits Special Issue on online sex offending

The most recent issue of the Journal of Sexual Aggression is a special issue on the topic of ‘Online Sex Offending – Approaches to Assessment and Intervention‘. This special issue has been guest edited by FCRG’s own Dr Hannah Merdian, in collaboration with Prof. Derek Perkins.

The area of online sex offending – including the downloading, viewing, and sharing of Child Sexual Exploitation Material (CSEM), as well as online grooming and solicitation of children – is rapidly growing in terms of the depth and breadth of research and knowledge-base. Dr Merdian and Prof. Perkins are key figures in this area and, in this special issue, they have brought together a series of research articles by other key researchers (as well as book reviews and a letter from Dr Seto) that showcase some of the most recent findings, thinking, and practical advances in the area. This includes risk factors associated with undetected CSEM users, CSEM-related cognitions, an anthropological analysis of CSEM offending, sexual grooming of children, feedback from CSEM users regarding a risk-reduction programme,and more.

Many of the online articles in the Special Issue – including the Introduction by Dr Merdian and Prof. Perkins – are currently open-access and can be found by clicking on this link

New publication by Dr Ross Bartels and colleagues

FCRG member – Dr Ross Bartels – has just published a paper in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment entitled “Assessing Sexual Interest in Children Using the Go/No-Go Association Test”, along with co-authors Prof. Anthony Beech, Dr Leigh Harkins, and Dr David Thornton.

The aim of this paper was to examine whether an indirect measure called the Go-No/Go Association Task (GNAT) is capable of assessing sexual interest in children. The authors found that men who have sexually offended against an extrafamilial child were faster at categorising child-related and sexual fantasy-related stimuli than adult-related and sexual fantasy-related stimuli (suggesting a stronger association between children and sexual fantasy). This pattern of responding was not seen in non-offenders or a group comprised of men with sexual offences against an intrafamilial child or against both adults and children.

Since individuals with extrafamilial offences tend to have a stronger sexual interest in children, these findings suggest that the GNAT is able to assess sexual interest in children. Moreover, the GNAT data correlated with the use of sexual fantasies about children in a manner that further supports this conclusion. Since the GNAT has some unique strengths as an indirect measure (e.g., it can assess single categories and absolute associations in addition to relative associations), this study provides preliminary support for the use of GNATs as a measure of sexual interest. Thus, with further corroboration, the GNAT may become a useful tool for both researchers and practitioners.

The article can be read here

Ross Bartels & Todd Hogue publish new paper with Craig Harper

We are delighted to inform readers of a new publication from members of the FCRG. The paper in question is from Dr Ross Bartels and Prof Todd Hogue (led by FCRG associate Dr Craig Harper) entitled “Reducing Stigma and Punitive Attitudes Toward Pedophiles Through Narrative Humanization” published in ‘Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment’.

This study addresses an important (and very current) topic within the literature – namely, people’s view of paedophiles. Prior research has shown that such views are highly stigmatised and punitive in nature. This view is largely due to a misunderstanding of what a paedophile is, driven by a common misconception that a paedophilic individual is a sexual offender (against children). These views can have negative consequences for paedophilic individuals who have no desire to offend, including increasing their risk of offending. As such, there is a need to find strategies that can improve these views allowing for more rational discussions of this topic, rather than purely emotion-driven responses.

In this present paper (N = 100), Harper, Bartels, and Hogue found that presenting participants with a first-person narrative stimulus (i.e., a male discussing his experiences of being a non-offending paedophile) and an informative stimulus (i.e., an expert describing what paedophilia is and is not) both led to reduced stigmatising and punitive attitudes towards paedophiles as measured via self-report questionnaires. Moreover, they found that only the former – which they termed a ‘humanised narrative’ – resulted in reduced negative views at an implicit (or automatic) level, as measured by a mousetracking task. The findings offer an important contribution to the literature on how the to address the misconceived, stigmatising views that people tend to hold towards paedophiles. We look forward to seeing how this specific area of research continues.

A pre-proof copy of the paper can be viewed here

Charlotte Wesson published in ‘The Quarterly’

We are very happy to inform that PhD student – Charlotte Wesson – has just had an article published in this month’s issue of The Quarterly – the official publication of the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group (PsyPAG). This particular issue is a Special Issue coordinated by the ‘Psychology of Sexualities Section’ of PsyPAG; of which Charlotte is the section representative.

In the article, entitled “The Fairer Sex – Literally: A Brief Review of Sexual Fluidity“, Charlotte discusses what sexual fluidity is (i.e., “the amount an individual’s sex drive can be moulded by social, situational and cultural pressures (Baumeister, 2000); Wesson, 2016, p. 34); provides an overview of the existing theories that attempt to explain sexual fluidity; and examines research on sexual fluidity in both women and men. Charlotte ends the paper with some points on why this research is important and what areas should be researched further.

To read Charlotte’s article, it can be found on page 34 of the online version of this month’s issue of The Quarterly. Click here to be taken this online version.

For further updates on Charlotte’s work, follow her on Twitter @CharWesson

Dr Ross Bartels publishes new study

FCRG member – Dr Ross Bartels (along with associate member Dr Craig Harper) – have just had a new paper published in the Journal of Sexual Aggression entitled “The influence of implicit theories and offender characteristics on judgements of sexual offenders: A moderated-mediation analysis”. 

Negative attitudes towards sexual offenders are typically related to harsher policy judgements (e.g., perceiving sexual offenders as deserving very harsh punishments). This new study extends this line of research by examining two factors that affect people’s judgements of sexual offenders; namely, the representativeness heuristic (i.e., how much the sex offender in a particular case matches the stereotype of a sex offender) and implicit theories about sexual offenders (i.e., the extent to which people believe perpetrators of sexual offences are fixed in their ways).

Using a sample of 252 community participants, Harper and Bartels found that the relationship between attitudes towards sexual offenders and policy judgements were mediated by implicit theories about sexual offenders (i.e., the relationship was stronger the more participants believed sex offenders cannot change). However, the mediation effect was moderated by the type of child sex offender they were judging. That is, no mediation effect was found when the case involved an adult female or a male juvenile perpetrator. From this, the authors argue that the relationship between attitudes and policy judgements is contingent on the activation of a ‘sexual offender stereotype’, but that this link can be disrupted if presented with a non-stereotypical case.

The journal has allowed for 50 free reads of the paper – which can be found by clicking here