Sexual offenders' state-of-mind regarding childhood attachment: a controlled investigation.

Research paper by Tania T Stirpe, Jeffrey J Abracen, Lana L Stermac, Robin R Wilson

Indexed on: 28 Jul '06Published on: 28 Jul '06Published in: Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment


Attachment experiences have been regarded as significant by researchers and clinicians attempting to explain the etiology of sexual offending. Although initial studies have revealed some promising evidence, there are a number of theoretical and methodological problems with this preliminary body of work. While addressing these limitations, the goal of the present study was to investigate state-of-mind regarding childhood attachment among subtypes of sexual offenders, comparing them to both a sample of nonsexual offenders and to the documented patterns of nonoffenders. Sixty-one sexual offenders (extrafamilial child molesters, incest offenders, and rapists) and 40 nonsexual offenders (violent and nonviolent) were administered the "Adult Attachment Interview." Results indicated that the majority of sexual offenders were insecure, representing a marked difference from normative samples. Although insecurity of attachment was common to all groups of offenders, there were important differences in regard to the specific type of insecurity. Most notable were the child molesters, who were significantly more likely to be Preoccupied. Rapists, violent offenders, and, to a lesser degree, incest offenders were more likely to be Dismissing. Although still most likely to be Dismissing, nonviolent offenders were comparatively more Secure.