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The measurement and influence of child sexual abuse supportive beliefs

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The identification of offence-related cognition is a major target of most cognitive-behavioural treatment programmes for sexual offenders, and a number of measures are available for this purpose. This study assessed the psychometric properties of a brief measure of beliefs that support and justify child sexual abuse: the Sex With Children (SWCH) scale. Factor analysis revealed two distinct types of belief: that sex with children is harmless, and that children actively provoke adults into having sex with them. The SWCH was also found to have good internal consistency, test-retest reliability and concurrent validity. Child molesters scored significantly more highly on the SWCH than did rapists or non-offenders, and high-risk child molesters reported more entrenched offence-supportive beliefs than lower risk child molesters. A relationship was also observed between general offence-supportive beliefs as measured by SWCH and offence-specific cognitions ascribing responsibility or enjoyment to the offender's victim. The SWCH subscales appeared to closely match two of the implicit theories hypothesized by Ward and Keenan (1999) to be related to child molestation. Sex offender treatment providers need to be aware of the relationship between underlying implicit theories and offence-specific distorted cognitions about the victim's experience.
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Keywords: Child sexual abuse; cognitive distortions; implicit theories; offence-supportive beliefs

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: HM Prison Service, London, UK 2: Rockwood Psychological Services, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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