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A critique of current child molester subcategories: a proposal for an alternative approach

W.L. Marshall, S. Smallbone & L. E. Marshall.
Psychology, Crime & Law; Published online: 25 Jun 2014.

This paper examines the utility of previous attempts to subcategorize child molesters. We argue that research based on these categorizations has resulted in confusion due to differences across studies concerning which offenders belong in each group. For example, there are no agreed-upon guidelines for identifying a child molester as an incest offender or as a ‘stranger’ offender. We examine research findings associated with previous attempts to subcategorize child molesters as well as the literature on modus operandi. From this, we conclude that current attempts to subcategorize child molesters are flawed. We propose that distinguishing child molesters according to new criteria – that is, whether or not they have been previously associated with their victim – should result in more productive research and provide a better guide for treatment and postdischarge supervision. In our terminology, nonaffiliative child molesters are those offenders who are truly strangers to their victims whereas affiliative child molesters are characterized by an established caregiving relationship with the child for some period prior to the offense. These men, unlike nonaffiliative offenders, engage in a protracted grooming process before offending. Finally, we outline research, treatment, and risk-management strategies relevant to each of our subcategories.



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