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DISCUSSION

Consistent with the results of Marshall et al. (1991), while all of the child molesters included in this study were convicted of offenses against children under the age of twelve, only 12 admitted to fantasies of children in that age group. Most of the remainder of these men stated that they fantasized about teenagers (age 12-16) as well as adults. This may reflect dishonesty in the responses of these men; a socially desirable defense strategy in the sense that reporting fantasies about post-pubescent, but young, females (i.e., more adult- like) may be perceived as being less deviant than fantasizing about pre-pubescent females. Thus, these men may be minimizing their deviance to appear more "normal". Indeed, data published by Barbaree (1991) showed that even after treatment 82% of sex offenders, of whom approximately half were child molesters, minimize their offenses to some extent.

An alternative explanation is that this may represent honest responding, and may reflect a cognitive distortion on the part of the men about their offending. It may be that child molesters see children as being older than they really are, thinking the child is a teenager when they are actually younger. Thus, they fantasize about someone they identify as being between the ages of 12 and 16, but the acting out of the fantasy involves someone younger.

A third possible explanation may be that the men's offenses were simply a matter of convenience, and had they had access to older children, they may not have offended against the younger ones. This latter suggestion is consistent with the notion of blockage, in that men may offend against children because they do not have access to adults. This explanation is also consistent with the child molester typology described by Knight and Prentky (1990). In this typology not all child molesters are expected to fantasize about children and show deviant arousal; a good number of molesters (e.g., Low fixation Axis I; Low Contact Axis II) offend for reasons other than deviant sexual interests.


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Also of note is the finding that child molesters and rapists did not differ in terms of the age of the adult female about whom they fantasized, or their ratings of the adult female in their fantasies. This is consistent with results obtained in studies which examine the sexual arousal patterns of child molesters. Most studies have found that the majority of child molesters display arousal to adult females to the same extent as non-child molesters (e.g., Baxter, Marshall, Barbaree, Davidson & Malcolm, 1984). As well, this finding is consistent with the blockage factor proposed by Finkelhor and Araji (1986), i.e., while the child molesters fantasize about and are attracted to women to the same extent as non- sexual offenders and rapists, they have acted out sexually with children. This suggests that perhaps adult females were somehow unavailable to them.

Results also indicated that child molesters tend to fantasize about children when in a negative mood state, and about adult females when in a positive mood, and that fantasies of children are likely to result in a negative mood state. Thus, a self-perpetuating cycle develops, in which negative moods lead to deviant fantasies, which lead to further negative moods, which in turn lead to further deviant fantasies. The more the child molester engages in deviant fantasies, the more likely he is to do so in the future, because the act of fantasizing creates the conditions necessary for it to occur. This finding is consistent with results reported by Neidigh and Tomiko (1991), who found that child molesters are more likely than non-molesters to report coping with stress by using self-denigration strategies; these are more likely to produce dysphoria, which increases the risk of lapses.

The above result also corresponds to the findings reported by Pithers et al. (1989) regarding precursors to actual sexual offenses. These authors found that sexual offenses of both rapists and child molesters were likely to be preceded by negative mood states such as anger and depression. The present study indicated that negative mood states tended to precede deviant fantasies. Careful fantasy monitoring may therefore aid in the prevention of offenses, because child molesters tend to plan their offenses (Pithers et al., 1989), and part of this planning may involve sexual fantasies. Monitoring of fantasies may thus serve as feedback to the offender regarding how well he is doing emotionally, and act as an early warning system for an impending relapse.

Related to the findings discussed above, it is also interesting to note that non-sexual offenders were the only group to report never experiencing anger either before or during fantasies about adult females. Both sex offender groups reported at least sometimes experiencing anger during a fantasy, and 26.3% of rapists admitted experiencing anger before a consensual fantasy of an adult female. As well, consistent with the disinhibition factor of Finkelhor and Araji's model, some child molesters reported at least some anger preceding and during fantasies about children. It may be that non-sexually assaultive males experience anger and sexual feelings as incompatible states, with anger serving as an inhibitor of sexual arousal, while this is not the case for sexual assaulters (Marshall and Barbaree, 1990).

It is commonly believed that child molesters engage in their sexually assaultive behaviours as a means of feeling powerful. Results of this study indicated that child molesters were no more likely to feel powerful or in control during fantasies about children than they were during fantasies about adults. As well, they were not more or less likely than rapists or non-sexual offenders to report feelings of power accompanying fantasies about adults. In addition, child molesters reported feeling more relaxed, less scared and less guilty when fantasizing about adults than children, which also contradicts the common assumptions regarding child molesters. Thus, it is unlikely that a search for power or other positive feelings would be a motivating factor in sexual assaults against children. Rather, it appears more likely that inappropriate attempts to escape dysphoric feelings may be the motivating force in such offenses.

These latter findings are important in the implications they have for the way in which clinicians working with child molesters conceptualize the child molester's motivations for offending. It appears, based on fantasy content, that at least some child molesters may be happier with an adult female than a child, but for some reason feel that this option is unavailable to them. Treatment of child molesters should, therefore, be addressing the blockage and emotional congruence factors, working on changing the man's perception of adult females, and encouraging his meeting emotional needs in more appropriate ways.

To confirm and elaborate on the current findings, future research should examine the relationship between moods and fantasies using other methodologies, such as direct fantasy and mood monitoring.

This article is based on an MA thesis prepared by the author.

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