Do child molesters hold distorted beliefs about children? What does their memory recall tell us?

T.A. Gannon, D.B. Wright, A.R. Beech, S.E. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Do child molesters hold distorted beliefs (or cognitive distortions) that support their sexual offending? To test this hypothesis, we asked 28 child molesters and 20 inmate controls to read a description of child molestation. Within this vignette, we planted 10 ambiguous descriptions. If child molesters' information processing were driven by cognitive distortions, we hypothesized that they would use this knowledge to disambiguate and cognitively distort each description. This was tested by examining participants' free recall of the vignette. Chi-square tests of association showed that both child molesters and inmate controls had various memory distortions for the vignette, but could not be differentiated based on the numbers of cognitive distortions in their recall classifications. In other words, our findings did not support the widely held cognitive distortion hypothesis - a finding which could promote substantial revision of both how we view child molesters' "cognitive distortions", and how we treat them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-18
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Sexual Aggression
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006

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