Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment [saj] pp1003-sebu-474118 November 14, 2003 16:50 Style ﬁle version Nov 28th, 2002
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 16, No. 1, January 2004 (
A Comparison of Relational Attitude and
Personality Disorders in the Explanation
of Child Molestation
and Johan Goethals
This study examined parental sensitivity, relational attitude (i.e., trust, friendship,
adult romantic attachment), and personality disorders in the aetiology of sexual
offences among a group of 84 child molesters and a matched normal control group
(n = 80). The child molesters were selected from either a community-based, edu-
cational training program (n = 51), or a Belgium prison (n = 33). Analyses using
structural equation modeling found that both relational attitude and personality
disorders differentiated between the child molesters and the comparison group.
Implications for the aetiology and treatment of child molesting is discussed.
KEY WORDS: sex offenders; pedophilia; interpersonal factors.
In the past 15 years, research has focussed on the intimacy deﬁcits of sexual
offenders (Marshall, 1989; Smallbone & Dadds, 1998). Research has shown that
child molesters and rapists experienced less intimacy than comparison groups
of normal men (Marshall, 1994) or nonsexual delinquents (Seidman, Marshall,
Hudson, & Robertson, 1994). Also, sex offenders report fewer friends in youth
than nonsexual delinquents (Tingle, Barnard, Robbins, Newman, & Hutchinson,
Child molesters, in particular, experienced less secure attachment, less inti-
macy, and fewer friendships in childhood and adulthood than nonsexual criminals
and normal control groups (Smallbone & Dadds, 1998). The attachment styles of
child molesters are characterized as anxious, avoiding, and ambivalent (Bumby &
IVA Tilburg, University of Tilburg, The Netherlands, Ghent University, Belgium.
Formerly at Department of Penal Law and Criminology, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.
Department of Penal Law and Criminology, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at IVA Tilburg, University of Tilburg, Postbus 90153,
5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation