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Characteristics of Child Molesters: Implications for the Fixated-Regressed Dichotomy

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 7 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1992) Pages: 211-225
L M J Simon; B Sales; A Kaszniak; M Kahn
Date Published
15 pages
This study empirically tested the fixated-regressed typology of child molesters presented in the child sexual abuse literature.
Perhaps the most accepted typology for child molesters differentiates fixated from regressed offenders (Groth, 1978; Groth and Birnbaum, 1978; Groth, Hobson, and Gary, 1982). According to this theoretical typology, the fixated child molester's sexual attraction to children is an arrestment of his sociosexual maturation that results from unresolved formative issues that undermined his subsequent development and persist in his personality functioning. The regressed offender's sexual involvement with a child, on the other hand, is a temporary or permanent departure from his more characteristic attraction to adults. To test this theory, the reported study used a sample of 136 consecutive cases of convicted child molesters tried in Pima County, Arizona over 2 years (1984-85). Case history, the results of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, presentence reports, and police report data were collected prior to sentencing. Application of the criteria that define fixated versus regressed status yielded a unimodal and continuous distribution of child molesters rather than the bimodal distribution predicted by theory. In a multiple regression analysis, two independent variables (whether the victim and offender were related and an offender's prior non-sex-criminal record) significantly predicted an offender's degree of regression, and a third independent variable (offender age) approached significance. Alternative conceptualizations to the fixated-regressed typology are described, and implications for understanding child molesters are discussed. 5 tables and 34 references