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Recidivism Among Child Molesters: A Brief Overview

NCJ Number
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume: 45 Issue: 1/2 Dated: 2007 Pages: 249-256
Keith F. Durkin; Allison L. Digianantonio
Date Published
8 pages
This paper reviews the relevant literature on recidivism among child molesters to summarize the problems facing many recidivism studies.
The sexual abuse of children is considered a major social problem. A major issue is the likelihood that a child molester will reoffend. Information on this issue would ideally be the product of the large body of research on recidivism among child molesters. Unfortunately, many of these studies are plagued by a variety of methodological shortcomings. There are a wide range of estimates of the recidivism rate for child molesters. However, some of the better designed research on the subject suggests a conservative estimate of long-term recidivism to be 50 percent higher, depending on the type of offender. Researchers seem to have been more successful in identifying individual factors that are associated with recidivism, such as offenders who target children they are not related to are recidivism risks and child molesters who have a deviant pattern of sexual arousal are more likely to reoffend. Risk factors include: targeting boys, impulsivity, using cognitive distortions, and psychopathology. High risk factors include those who have sexually abused children in the past. There is definitely a need for well-designed studies of recidivism among child molesters. In the meantime, when assessing the risks posed by an individual offender, one needs to take into consideration both the static and dynamic risk factors for that individual. Since much of the public’s concerns in the sexual abuse of children revolve around the potential dangerousness of any given child molester, practitioners are frequently responsible for making assessments regarding these risks. These assessments should ideally be based on the research on recidivism. However, studies on this topic frequently produce conflicting and confusing results. References