A systematic review of cognitive distortions in online child sexual exploitation material offenders

Chad M.S. Steel*, Emily Newman, Suzanne O'Rourke, Ethel Quayle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The aim of this review was to analyse and synthesize the results of prior research into the cognitive distortions present in online child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) consumers. A systematic search of databases containing peer reviewed articles as well as grey literature was conducted for prior studies involving the cognitions of CSEM offenders using the SPIDER methodology. Twenty articles were identified for inclusion following a full text review and a Mixed-Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT) quality analysis. The instruments used were reviewed and summarized, and the level of endorsement present in the measured characteristics was analysed. The study's findings show that overall endorsement of cognitive distortions traditionally associated with contact sex offenders by CSEM offenders was low, and that existing sex offender instruments are largely ineffective tools for use with CSEM offenders. Newer assessment instruments built specifically for online offenders show promise, with overall moderate endorsements present in tools such as the Cognitions on Internet Sexual Offending scale (CISO), but additional research is needed to validate this approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101375
Number of pages11
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Early online date23 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Child pornography
  • Child sexual exploitation material
  • Cognitive distortion
  • Online offender


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