Knowledge and Resource Hub
09 December 2019

Understanding men’s self-reported sexual interest in children

The purpose of this research was to identify if factors such as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and atypical childhood sexual experiences were associated with self-reported sexual interest in children among a community-based sample of men. The research found that physical and emotional abuse and witnessing parental violence were not associated with men’s sexual interest in children. This finding is consistent with other evidence that the link between physically and verbally abusive childhood experiences and child sexual offending is specific to incarcerated sex offenders, and not to men outside forensic and clinical settings who report some sexual interest in children. Being a victim of child sexual abuse, however, was a significant predictor of men’s sexual interest in children. Further analyses suggested that child sexual abuse may act as a facilitating factor affecting boys’ sexual development through precocious sexual experiences, such as early masturbation and frequent viewing of sexually explicit material leading to heightened sexual sensation seeking during adolescence and persisting into adulthood.