I recently began a new thread on the topic of the sanity defense, and I noted in the thread that I wanted to address more issues related to forensic and correctional psychology, in addition to the clinical psychology topics I’ve been covering. I mentioned having several forensic psychology threads going at once would be a way to increase the total amount of forensic psychology posts. Another way to do this in a manner that will be productive for both me and this blog is to review research articles that address forensic psychology and related topics.
With this in mind, the article I will review for this post is entitled “On Sexual Violence.” It was written by John M.W. Bradford, and was published in the journal “Current Opinion in Psychiatry” in 2006. The article is actually a review of much of the relevant research on sexual violence that was published in 2005. The author broadly categorized the research he summarizes into four categories: 1) sexual homicides and sexual sadism; 2) Internet sexual offending; 3) typology and characteristics of various types of sexual offending; and 4) statistical surveys and meta-analyses of sex offenders. Overall, the article attempts to provide an overview of the most relevant findings from the research in each of these four subgroups, no small feat. Each section of the article does offer data points regarding the research reviewed, albeit in very small doses. However, it is enough information to narrow one’s efforts in deciding whether to follow-up on a particular article. In fact, the article is useful in two ways; it allows the reader to get a general sense of the broad trends and finding in the area of sex offender research (at least in 2005), and it provides a nice reference point to obtain articles of interest based on the summary of their findings. From this article, I plan on reviewing at least ten articles reviewed, in order to obtain more detailed information.
Now I’ll address some specifics. Again, these are not findings from research conducted by this author - he has simply provided a summary of relevant findings in 2005. If subsequent article reviews that stem from reading this article prove interesting, I’ll provide a more thorough review. For now, here are a couple of the most interesting/relevant findings noted by Bradford:
* He cited research noting an association between sexual sadism and brain damage, usually located in the anterior temporal lobe of the brain. One study found an association between the presence of brain abnormalities and more deviant sexual murders. A sample of sexually motivated murders was divided into those with versus without brain abnormalities. The group with the brain abnormalities had a history of more behavioral problems, more paraphilias, younger victims, and other difficulties.
* One study noted that many Internet pornography offenders (out of a sample of 201) had engaged in other forms of “sexual deviance,” and had been charged with previous sexual offenses. In addition, the offenders most likely to re-offend were those that had committed a prior or current sex offense.
* Research was reviewed examining subgroups of incest perpetrators. Specifically, differences were noted based on the victim’s age. Incest perpetrators with victims under the age of six were more likely to experience comorbid psychopathology and substance abuse problems, compared with incest perpetrators whose victims were older. Both groups demonstrated deviant sexual arousal towards children, as well as problems with normal sexual functioning.
* One study noted the practice of obscene phone calls has elements associated with stalking.
* Several studies examined treatment of sex offenders, including the role of cognitive distortions and fantasies in offending and treatment. One study examined the type of sexual fantasies reported by adolescent sex offenders engaged in treatment. The pattern that emerged was of normal sexual fantasies being reported at the beginning of treatment, with more deviant fantasies being acknowledged in the middle of treatment. As treatment approached the end, a decline in reported deviant sexual fantasies was observed.
* Differences in IQ were noted between two groups of inmates, those incarcerated for sexual offenses versus non-sexual offenses.
As noted earlier, I plan on reviewing at least a couple of these articles in more detail. In terms of forensic psychology, the articles of mst use will have to prove with risk assessment, treatment possibilities, etc. In particular, I am interested in examining research on treatment outcome. I tend to be skeptical of any treatment measures that rely on the self-report of internal experiences, particularly when the sources are individuals who 1) have relatively little insight to begin with, and 2) are extremely motivated (both intrinsically and extrinsically) to lie about what is going on in their head. Until someone develops an error-free way of assessing the truthfulness of one’s self-reports, we really need to be cautious of just how much we accept the validity of offenders’ disclosures.