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Neurocognitive differences between pedophilic and nonpedophilic child molesters

  • YANA SUCHY (a1), J. WILSON WHITTAKER (a1) (a2), DONALD S. STRASSBERG (a1) and ANGELA EASTVOLD (a1)

Abstract

Although some evidence exists that child molesters may be characterized by structural and functional brain abnormalities, findings across studies are inconsistent. Past cognitive research in this area has been extensively criticized for relying on conceptually weak batteries, measures of questionable reliability, and poorly defined samples (i.e., failing to distinguish between pedophilic and nonpedophilic child molesters). The present study aimed to address the weaknesses of past research by comparing 40 child molesters (20 pedophilic and 20 nonpedophilic) and 20 demographically matched nonoffender controls on six well-defined neurocognitive composite scores of comparable reliability (i.e., semantic knowledge, executive functioning, processing speed, motor speed, auditory memory, and visual memory). Results indicated that pedophilic child molesters exhibit slower processing speed, nonpedophilic child molesters exhibit poorer semantic knowledge, and both molester groups exhibit executive weaknesses as compared to nonoffender controls. This study is the first to compare the two molester types on neurocognitive functions. The observed differences between the molester groups help explain inconsistencies in past research and demonstrate the need to distinguish between the two types of child molesters when studying neurobiologic underpinnings of sexual offending. (JINS, 2009, 15, 248–257.)

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Corresponding author

*Correspondence and reprint requests to: Yana Suchy, Department of Psychology, University of Utah, 380 S. 1580 E., Room 502, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112. E-mail: yana.suchy@psych.utah.edu

References

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