Self perceptions and cognitions of 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 journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Identifying the self-perceptions of child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) consumers compared to a reference population of non-consumers is critical in establishing distorted cognitions that may not be elucidated when comparison is made with groups who have committed other offenses. This exploratory work utilizes a quantitative approach toward identifying how individuals previously convicted of child pornography offenses view CSEM and CSEM offending, using a group of non-offenders as a baseline. The target group was selected based on their inclusion in two sex offender registries for child pornography offenses (n = 78). A reference group of non-offenders (n = 254) was gender-matched from a subset of a prior study evaluating the public perceptions of CSEM. Both groups were adults located within the United States and were asked questions using an online survey about their general perceptions of CSEM, their endorsement of CSEM beliefs, and their opinions related to the legality of various forms of CSEM and associated laws and sentencing guidelines. The study found that CSEM consumers more accurately assessed risks associated with CSEM offending, but that they exhibited potential minimization-based cognitive distortions related to severity and victimization and more strongly endorsed child erotica and virtual child pornography being legal. Additionally, they endorsed treatment over prison, and were strongly opposed to sex offender registration for child pornography offenses. The results provide potential treatment targets, including behavioral areas that may be pathways to CSEM offending.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Early online date1 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Dec 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • child pornography
  • self-perceptions
  • sex offender registration
  • child sexual exploitation material
  • cognitive distortions
  • child sexual abuse material


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