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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Child molesters’ retrospective accounts of their acts and subsequent reasoning on ethical issues Paris, Faye Ann


The primary purpose of this project was to examine some of the factors which lead child molesters to sexually abuse their victims. To understand why these sexual activities occurred, molesters' own past histories of abuse were considered. To determine how molesters sexually abused children, their approach to selecting, seducing, and silencing the children was examined. The secondary purpose of this project was to evaluate the child molesters' strategies on ethical reasoning tasks after being involved in a sexual relationship with a child . Subjects included twenty convicted male offenders who volunteered to participate while residing at a medium security prison: ten were convicted of extra-familial offences, while the rest were convicted of intra - familial offences. During unstructured interviews, these offenders provided descriptions of their previous sexual experiences, including the sexual activities that occurred with their victims. The semi-structured interviews consisted of meta-ethical tasks measuring the offender's sense of personal continuity over time and skeptical doubt tasks measuring the offender's ability to resolve conflicting issues. These meta-ethical tasks were followed by normative ethical tasks involving three hypothetical dilemmas to measure moral competence and a personal dilemma to measure moral behavior. The results for the unstructured interview supported Marshall's (1989) theory that sex offenders select children that will meet their needs, thus avoiding loneliness. Child molesters reported selecting more non-vulnerable than vulnerable children. Frequently they admitted seducing children through acts of comforting. Not only did they comfort the child , the child would comfort the molester. The majority of child molesters reported they knew the would remain silent about the events that had occurred. The results for the meta-ethical task, personal continuum, indicated that molesters who received the most treatment used higher levels of reasoning. They also used more flexible strategies on the skeptical doubt tasks. For the normative ethical tasks, performance by molesters on the hypothetical dilemmas was more advanced than performance on the personal dilemmas. For the personal dilemmas, the intra-familial offenders in the high-treatment group demonstrated less advanced levels of reasoning than the intra-familial offenders i n the low-treatment group. Further research is needed to clarify these results from a theoretical , empirical and practical level.

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