According to Finkelhor (Finkelhor, 1984; Araji and Finkelhor, 1985) there are four components that contribute, in differing degrees and forms, to development of a child molester’s behavior. To explain the diversity of behavior of sexual abusers, there are four factors in a complementary process. These four factors are sexual arousal, emotional congruence, blockage, and disinhibition:
Sexual arousal: In order for an adult to be aroused by a child, there has frequently been cultural or familial conditioning to sexual activity with children or early fantasy reinforced by masturbation.
Emotional congruence: There is comfort in relating to a child and satisfaction of emotional need through the abuse. This is apt to be due to arrested development through limited intelligence, immaturity or low self-esteem.
Blockage: Age appropriate sexual opportunities may be blocked by bad experiences with age appropriate adults, sexual dysfunction, limited social skills, or marital disturbance.
Disinhibition: The abuser may lose control through impulse control deficits, psychosis, alcohol, drugs, stress, or nonexistent family rules.
An ephebophile is attracted to the post-pubescent child, and the pedophile is attracted to the pre-pubescent. There are likely to be significant neurological and psychological differences, in addition to the more obvious sings of endocrinological difference, between either’s object of affection.
- Adults who are preoccupied with children
- Children who are preoccupied with another child…being secretive about activities
- Single adults who work or volunteer with children’s clubs/activities and frequently spend their free time doing “special” things with kids
- Adults who spend time volunteering with youth groups who do not have children in those groups
- Adults who seem to engage in frequent contact with children, i.e., casual touching, caressing, wrestling, tickling, combing hair or having children sit on their lap
- Adults who act like children when with children or who allow children to do questionable or inappropriate things
- Adults who want to take your children on special outings too frequently or plan activities that would include being alone with your child(ren)
- Adults who do not have children and know too a lot about the current fads or music popular with children
- Adults with whom your children seem to like for reasons you don’t understand
- Adults who infiltrate family and social functions or are “readily available” to watch your child(ren)
Finkelhor suggests that examination of these factors can help explain why sexual abusers are predominately male. Rowan, Rowan, and Langelier (1981) studied 600 sex offender evaluations in New Hampshire and Vermont and found that in only nine cases (1.5 percent) was the perpetrator a woman. These nine incidents are reviewed in terms of Finkelhor’s (1984) four-factor model. In five of the incidents studied, the abuse occurred in conjunction with a dominant male partner; in four, the woman acted independently. The histories of several of the women revealed a history of childhood abuse and all had serious psychological problems or limited intelligence. The victims of the four women who acted independently were male. Of the five women who acted in conjunction with a male, three victimized females, one victimized a male, and one victimized both a son and a daughter. The authors concluded that none of these incidents were true paraphilics according to the DSM-llI-R but that the female molesters did fit the model proposed by Finkelhor. Understanding what motivates a person to abuse children sexually does NOT excuse him or her, or remove responsibility for the choices he or she has made. Although potentially abused as a child, the perpetrator is still responsible for his adult behavior and for the denial system that allows the abuse to continue. The adult is responsible for protecting the welfare of children; therefore, the adult is responsible for protecting children even from himself or herself if necessary.
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