Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment [saj] pp791-sebu-461977 April 6, 2003 13:23 Style ﬁle version Nov 28th, 2002
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 15, No. 3, July 2003 (
Distorted Attitudes and Perceptions, and Their
Relationship With Self-Esteem and Coping
in Child Molesters
W. L. Marshall,
L. E. Marshall,
and Raina-Lianne Kruger
Two studies were conducted to compare various aspects of child molesters, non-
sexual offenders, and community-based nonoffenders. These studies were aimed
at examining some implications of our general model of sexual offending. Study 1
compared the responses of these 3 groups on measures of self-esteem, attitudes
toward women and children, and social desirability tendencies. The only observed
difference was that child molesters had signiﬁcantly lower self-esteem than did the
other 2 groups. In Study 2, child molesters displayed more cognitive distortions
about sex between adults and children than did nonsexual offenders or nonoffend-
ers. However in this study child molesters scored in the same range as the other
participants on self-esteem and the tendency to use sex as a way of coping with
problems. The results are discussed in terms of the differences between the present
ﬁndings and earlier studies, and their implications for future research.
KEY WORDS: child molesters; attitudes; self-esteem; coping style.
In our general theory of sexual offending (Marshall & Barbaree, 1984;
Marshall & Marshall, 2000) self-esteem is understood to play a mediating role
in the manifestations of various features of these offenders. For example, we
have shown that victim-speciﬁc empathy deﬁcits are signiﬁcantly negatively cor-
related with self-esteem (Marshall, Champagne, Brown, & Miller, 1997; Marshall,
Hamilton, & Fernandez, 2001), and we suggested that this was because the offend-
ers wished to deny victim harm in order to protect their fragile sense of self-worth.
In this respect we construed the apparent empathy deﬁcits as a class of cognitive
Department of Psychology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
To whomcorrespondence should beaddressed at Rockwood Psychological Services, 303 Bagot Street,
Suite 403, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7K 5W7; e-mail: email@example.com.
2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation