chapter  6
Offending pathways: the role of lifestyle and precrime factors in extrafamilial child molesters
Pages 19

Over the years, several attempts have been made to explain child molestation. Finkelhor’s (1984; Finkelhor & Araji, 1986) Precondition Model was the first multifactorial explanation of child sexual abuse and-probably due to its simplicity-has been one of the most popular and cited models of child sexual abuse (Ward, Polaschek, & Beech, 2006). The model rests on four preconditions that are temporally organized and that may interact with each other. The first precondition is that there must be a motivation to sexually abuse. According to Finkelhor (1984), there are three distinct motivations. Emotional congruence-i.e., child sexual abuse meeting an emotional need-is the first motivation. An example of this congruence would be the fulfillment of an aggressor’s need for affection and valorization through contact with children, who are perceived as naive and affectionate, as opposed to adults, whom he perceives as rejecting. The second motivation is a preferential arousal pattern to children. The third motivation is a desire to compensate for blockage, namely the inability to meet sexual and emotional needs in a socially acceptable way (due, for example, to marital problems or deficient social skills). In such situations, child sexual abuse is a compensating strategy. This leads to the second precondition: overcoming internal inhibitors. Finkelhor states that disinhibitors may be either internal (e.g., alcohol intoxication, severe stress, sexual arousal, cognitive distortions), or external (e.g., the consumption of child pornography). He also states that this precondition is a necessary but insufficient causal factor for sexual abuse. The third precondition is the overcoming of external inhibitors, i.e., obstacles that need to be removed in order to abuse the child. Strategies to overcome such obstacles include grooming the victim and cultivating a relationship with the victim’s parents. The last precondition is the overpowering of the victim’s resistance. Many strategies (e.g., giving gifts, using alcohol, desensitizing the child to sex by exposing them to pornography, using threats or force) may be deployed to this end. This last precondition is compatible with the rational choice approach

presented in Chapter 3. For instance, if a young boy does not let the offender touch him, the offender may attempt to bribe him (e.g., “If you let me do it, I’ll let you play with my videogame”). Hall and Hirschman (1992) formulated a quadripartite model of the sexual abuse of children. Interestingly, they were also able to classify offenders on the basis of predominant factors that favor offending. As in Finkelhor’s (1984) model, the first factor of Hall and Hirschman’s model is the presence of deviant sexual fantasies (Finkelhor’s preferential sexual arousal by children). Individuals predominantly motivated by this factor are likely to have multiple victims, and use little or no violence (Hall, 1996). The second factor, also mentioned in Finklehor’s model, is the presence of cognitive distortions (i.e., inaccurate and self-serving interpretations of offense-related behaviors; Ward, Polaschek, & Beech, 2006). Usually, individuals exhibiting such distortions will describe children as provocative, seductive, and enjoying and benefiting from sex with adults, or will blame the offense on external causes (e.g., alcohol, stress). Compatible with the rational choice approach discussed previously, Hall and Hirschman (1992) suggest that the abuse of a child is more likely when the individual acting on these distortions perceives the benefits of the offense (e.g., sexual pleasure) to outweigh the possible risks (e.g., risk of punishment). Offenders predominantly disinhibited by cognitive distortions are more likely to commit premeditated crimes (Hall, 1996). The third factor of the quadripartite model is affective dyscontrol or negative affective states, i.e., problems identifying and managing emotions (Ward, Polaschek, & Beech, 2006). For example, some individuals may use masturbation or alcohol to reduce feelings of loneliness and anger. Individuals disinhibited by affective dyscontrol typically are depressive, and commit opportunistic offenses with high levels of nonsexual and sexual violence (Hall, 1996). The last factor of the model is personality problems that contribute to the development of antisocial attitudes and inadequate interpersonal strategies (e.g., use of force to obtain what the offender wants). Individuals characterized by such personality problems are typically aggressive and have no regard for social norms and rules. In these offenders, situational factors (e.g., consuming pornography, encountering a child alone) can act as powerful disinhibitors. Finkelhor’s (1984) and Hall and Hirschman’s (1992) models are interesting, as they not only provide a theoretical framework for child sexual abuse, but also highlight important risk factors that have been empirically associated with the sexual abuse of children. However, it could be argued that the sequential links between each factor are not specified, that the crime characteristics are neglected, and that no relationship has been established between the modus operandi and the factors specified in these theories. Both theoretical models allow for only rudimentary classification of offenders. The next section discusses representative clinical, empirical, law-enforcement, and situational typologies of child molesters.