Medium 9781855758629

The Internal World of the Juvenile Sex Offender

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The book argues the case for the usefulness of an empirically based understanding of the internal world of juvenile sex offenders as a way of humanely relating to their difficulties. It details the extent and nature of juvenile sex offending and its impact on victims and provides an extensive psychoanalytically oriented description of this offender group. The background of these offenders is examined, focusing on their experience of abuse, especially sexual abuse. Attention is paid to the unique characteristics of these offenders, particularly their attachment difficulties. The value of attachment theory and the concepts of psychopathy and malignant narcissism are then explored as a means of viewing their internal world. This internal world is also viewed through an empirical lens, which reveals them to have impaired psychic representations of human relationship, different needs for relationship and, in the most psychopathic group, an obfuscation of that need.The implications of these findings are then considered and the application of these understandings of their internal world is then explored. Firstly, issues related to assessment are addressed and, following detailed clinical case examples of their differences, their treatment needs are examined. In particular, the utility of a proposed modified version of Mentalization Based Therapy (MBT) is considered as part of a continuum of psychoanalytically oriented treatment options. Finally, there is a reflection on the reality that juvenile sex offending represents, with some concluding thoughts about addressing this ongoing and distressing problem.

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CHAPTER ONE: The nature of juvenile sex offending

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“Navigating quiet worlds inhabited by strangeness Things no one identifies with”

(Murphy, 1996, p. 313)

Juvenile sex offending is an issue of major public concern, yet currently little is understood about its origins. In particular, there is a very limited understanding of the motivations and the internal world of the offender. The serious nature of juvenile sex offending has, however, led to a re-examination of previously held views and an urgency to know more about its causes and methods of prevention (Barbaree, Hudson,&Seto, 1993; Becker, Harris,&Sales, 1993; Lakey, 1992; Ryan, Miyoshi, Metzner, Krugman,&Fryer, 1996; Seto&Lalumière, 2010; Sickmund, Snyder,&Poe-Yamagata, 1997). Previously, the significance of juvenile sex offending has been minimized, with offenders often regarded as sexually curious, or engaged in sexual experimentation associated with their emergent sexuality (Davis&Leitenberg, 1987; Lakey, 1994; Quinn, 1992). The behaviour was often naïvely viewed as self-limiting with age and maturity (Barbaree, Hudson,&Seto, 1993; Finklehor, 1979), with offences committed by juveniles considered unlikely to be serious in nature (Becker&Able, 1985; Groth, 1977). Stereotyped social attitudes have also supported such perceptions (Anderson, Simpson-Taylor,&Herrmann, 2004). Subsequently, evidence has challenged these views and highlighted the simplicity of such accounts and the need for further research into the complex motivations of juvenile sex offenders (Anderson, Simpson-Taylor,&Herrmann, 2004; Davis&Leitenberg, 1987; Dolan, Holloway, Bailey,&Kroll, 1996; Kenny, Keogh,&Seidler, 2001; Kenny, Keogh, Seidler,&Blaszczynski, 2000; Seto&Lalumière, 2010; Snyder&Sickmund, 1995).

 

CHAPTER TWO: The characteristics and differences of juvenile sex offenders

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“Knowledge becomes evil if the aim be not virtuous”

(Plato, 427 BC, cited in Wall, 2011, p. 247)

Juvenile sex offenders as a group have generally been shown to have significant psychopathology that is different from that of non-sexual offenders (Seto&Lalumière, 2010). They also appear to be different psychologically from other non-offending adolescents (Dolan, Holloway, Bailey,&Kroll, 1996; Kenny, Keogh,&Seidler, 2001; Kenny, Keogh, Seidler,&Blaszczynski 2000; Keogh&Hayes, 2003; van Wijk et al., 2006), although they may present as similar to other adolescents, often appearing like “the boy (or girl) next door” in many other respects. As a group, they also exhibit heterogeneity in terms of their psychopathology, which appears to account for differences in their sexual offence types.

Characteristics of juvenile sex offenders

Juvenile sex offenders have been found to be predominantly male, despite an increase in the number of female sex offenders (Burton, Miller,&Shill, 2002), with the typical offender being fourteen years old and offending against children who are female and seven years of age (Dolan, Holloway, Bailey,&Kroll, 1996; Kenny, Keogh, Seidler,&Blaszczynski, 2000). Although Afro-American and Hispanic offenders are over-represented in US samples (Davis&Leitenberg, 1987; Hsu&Starzynski, 1990; Vinogradov, Dishotsky, Doty,&Tinklenberg, 1988), juvenile sex offenders in other western cultures, including the UK and Australia, have been found to be from Anglo-Celtic and European backgrounds (Dolan, Holloway, Bailey,&Kroll, 1996; Kenny, Keogh, Seidler,&Blaszczynski, 2000; Manocha&Mezey, 1998; van Wijk, van Horn, Bullens, Bijleveld,&Doreleijers, 2005).

 

CHAPTER THREE: Attachment and juvenile sex offending CHAPTER FOUR: Psychopathy and juvenile sex offending

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“Because some of my ideas are alien to the theoretical traditions that have become established, and so have met with strong criticism, I have been at pains to show that most of them are by no means alien to what Freud himself thought and wrote”

(Bowlby, 1969, p. xv)

This chapter examines what is known about the connection between attachment and sex offending, specifically juvenile sex offending. Consistent with contemporary views and research findings in the broader field of enquiry into sexuality and attachment (Diamond, Blatt,&Lichtenberg, 2007), the research linking the two is underpinned by a view that attachment and sexuality are separate but strongly interconnected behavioural systems, such that secure attachment appears to strongly predict psycho-sexual maturity and adjustment.

Many definitions of attachment (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters,&Wall, 1978; Bartholomew, 1990; Diamond, Blatt,&Lichtenberg, 2007; Fonagy, 2001; Main&Hess, 1990; Zeanah, 1993) have highlighted the fact that attachment involves the subjective perception of another person (initially the mother or primary care-giver) as a source of psychological safety and security (Widlocher, 2001). Attachment is, thus, antithetical to isolation and loneliness and is the vehicle through which human beings achieve the satisfying emotional exchanges necessary for psychological health and well-being.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: Psychopathy and juvenile sex offending

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“The determination at all costs not to risk again the disappointment and resulting rages and longings which wanting someone very much and not getting them involves”

(Bowlby, 1944, cited in Holmes, 1993, p. 87)

Psychopathy is synonymous with an obfuscation of the need for attachment. Bowlby (1944) described psychopaths as “detached”. Psychopathy can, therefore, be seen as representing psychopathology, which involves the most extreme incapacity for attachment. There is considerable evidence that implicates psychopathy in juvenile sex offending.

The nature of psychopathy

Psychopathy is regarded as a personality disorder. Drawing heavily on Cleckly’s (1941) work, Hare describes psychopathy as consisting of a characteristic pattern of interpersonal, affective, and behavioural symptoms so that, on an interpersonal level, psychopaths are shown to be grandiose, egocentric, manipulative, forceful, and cold-hearted. In terms of their affect, they display shallow and labile emotions and are unable to form long-lasting bonds to people, principles, and goals. They experience little anxiety, genuine guilt, or remorse. Behaviour-ally, psychopaths are impulsive and sensation seeking, and they readily violate social norms. The most obvious expressions of these predispositions “involve criminality, substance abuse, and a failure to fulfill social obligations and responsibilities” (Hare, 1991, p. 3).

 

CHAPTER FIVE: Malignant narcissism, psychopathy, and perversion

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“The human mind needs to relate to the other in order to develop”

(Ferro, 2005, p. 15)

Ihave previously noted how, as a result of disruptions to attachment and emotional development, some juvenile sex offenders relate to others through either sexualized or violently sexualized means. Indeed, what characterizes the psychopathic offender is his desire to hurt and coerce others. In this chapter, I explicate how narcissism, when it becomes “malignant”, links to the behaviours and attitudes which constitute what is described as psychopathy and to consider its connection to sexual perversion.

Malignant narcissism, as a term, has evolved over time. Eric Fromm (1964) in his book, The Heart of Man, described it as: “The most severe pathology and the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity” (p. 33).

Akhtar (2009) points to Weigert’s (1967) view of malignant narcissism as involving a regressive state, encompassing denial and a distortion of reality and coexisting with a benign narcissism, which she saw as a type of enhanced self-esteem linked to having survived adversity. Ahtkar notes that Weigert also felt that “there was no sharp division between the two forms of narcissism” (Akhtar, 2009, p. 163).

 

CHAPTER SIX: Epigenetics and aspects of the neurobiology of attachment and sexual behaviour

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“The phrase ‘nature and nurture’ is a convenient jingle of words, for it separates under two distinct heads the innumerable elements of which personality is composed. Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the world; nurture is every influence without that affects him after his birth.”

(Sir Francis Galton, 1874)

The view into the internal world of the juvenile sex offender can be enhanced by a brief overview of some of the key aspects of the neurobiology of both attachment and sexual behaviour and their interaction with developmental factors. In this chapter, therefore, I explain the relevance of epigenetics to the development of the “social brain” and provide something of a helicopter view of the brain’s limbic system, its neurochemistry, and its relevance to understanding juvenile sex offending.

Epigenetic factors and their relevance to attachment and sex offending

The human genome experiment and the associated genetic (chromosomal) mapping onto human diseases and characteristics have had wide ranging implications. These include a refocus on the biology of human behaviour and the rise of biological psychiatry. Importantly, the field of epigenetics has also evolved as a consequence of advancing knowledge of the human biological system. Epigenetics identifies mechanisms that influence the phenotypic expression of genetic potential and gives equal and reciprocal primacy to both nature and nurture, that is, to gene–environment interactions.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: The study and its findings

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Clinical descriptions of juvenile sex offenders suggest that they may be a heterogeneous group with varied attachment styles and different levels of psychopathy. This profile is supported by the more prolific research with adult sex offenders (Marshall, Geris,&Cortoni, 2000; Marshall, Hudson,&Hodkinson, 1993).

Psychopathy in combination with sexual deviance has also been found to predict recidivism. It also predicts offence types among adult sex offenders. Adult rapists appear to have much higher levels of psychopathy than child molesters, with the latter group appearing to have other types of personal difficulties associated with social isolation and immaturity (Marshall, 1989; Marshall, Cripps, Anderson,&Cortoni, 1999). It is important to note that this does not preclude a group of psychopathic offenders (whose intent is primarily to hurt) who also target children.

Juvenile sex offenders have been found to reveal different levels of antisocialness which appeared to be linked with their offence type (Worling, 1995). Types of offending and victim choice also seem to link with different personality characteristics, which, in turn, appear to have some correlation with antisocialness (see Chapter Two). Related to this, adult sex offenders who molest children are less likely to be antisocial or to offend non-sexually. Their personality characteristics seem to be related to their inability to relate to adults in a mature, reciprocal, and emotionally meaningful way (Ward&Siegert, 2002).

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: A closer view into the internal world of the juvenile sex offender

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“Out of infinite longings, rise finite deeds”

(From “Infinite”, Rilke, 2004)

On the basis of their landmark meta-analysis of research involving 3855 adolescent sex offenders, Seto and Lalumière (2010) concluded that “adolescent sex offending cannot be parsimoniously explained as a simple manifestation of anti-social tendencies” (p. 526). Their analysis highlighted that these offenders represent a heterogeneous group with a significant range of psycho-pathology. Further, many of the factors they isolated as having likely aetiological significance to juvenile sex offending are experiences likely to disrupt their attachment, once again highlighting the probable significance of attachment issues to juvenile sex offending.

The research (reported in Chapter Seven) is the first to demonstrate that sub-types of juvenile sex offenders could be predicted by measures of capacity for attachment, level of relatedness, psychopathy, psychopathology, and empirical correlates of the internal world. This research, which I will hereafter refer to as “my study”, showed that attachment capacity and human relatedness were lower in juvenile sex offenders when they were compared to a group of non-offending adolescents. It further showed that these variables, along with psychopathy, differentiated those offenders who molest children from those who have peer-aged or older victims. The results, therefore, suggested the diagnostic relevance of capacity for attachment, level of relatedness (and the associated object relations), and psychopathy with juvenile sex offenders.

 

CHAPTER NINE: Implications for the assessment of the juvenile sex offender

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The results of my study (discussed in Chapters Seven and Eight), along with the broad research literature base concerning juvenile sex offenders, make a case for the importance of assessing their capacity for attachment, level of detachment (psychopathy), psychopathology and empirical correlates of their internal world. In this chapter, I highlight some important issues in the assessment of juvenile sex offenders and recommend a battery of tests that facilitates the assessment of these constructs. I describe in some detail aspects of these instruments which I feel are particularly useful in articulating relevant motivational factors behind their offending. As the Rorschach (a part of the battery of tests I recommend) has been a somewhat controversial psycho-diagnostic test (despite the richness of assessment data it can yield), I also take up something of the controversy around the use of this instrument.

Starting with the proposition that juvenile sex offenders are not a homogeneous group in terms of their psychopathology, a careful assessment of differential offending-related variables is necessary to ensure the appropriateness of the approach to, and content of, their treatment. It is also important to determine who is most suitable for treatment and, in some rare instances, whether treatment is not indicated or is not feasible. These considerations relate in part to the issue of what has become known as treatment “responsivity”.

 

CHAPTER TEN: The tale of two psyches: case histories of juvenile sex offenders

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“That self, that life of one’s own … is a composite structure which has been and is being formed and built up since the day of our birth, out of countless never-ending influences and exchanges between ourselves and others”

(Riviere, 1985, p. 358)

In this chapter, I present two case histories representing one from each of the two broad categories of young sexual offenders that have been discussed in previous chapters. In the case of the psychopathic offender, relating to others is achieved primarily through violence and sexualized violence. Psychopathic offenders divest themselves of any emotional investment in the other. Affect, the mediator between the somatic and psychological self, has been removed as a means of maintaining psychological equilibrium (McDougall, 1995). This is one solution which also has a unique psycho-biology. It is the endpoint of a developmental trajectory which has undoubtedly involved a threatening emotional environment lacking in safety and security and one in which the individual has had to defend himself against an object on which he ought to have been able to rely. Such a background often involves severe neglect and abuse, usually early in development and often continuing for lengthy periods of the child’s life. This developmental context results in the development of what Meloy (1997) refers to as the stranger self-object.

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Mentalization based therapy (MBT) and other psychoanalytic treatment

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“The self and its boundaries are at the heart of philosophical speculation on human nature, and the sense of self and its counterpart, the sense of other, are universal phenomena that profoundly influence all our social experience”

(Stern, 1985, p. 5)

The psychological profiles of psychopathic and affect-hungry juvenile sex offenders discussed in Chapter Eleven can be differentiated on the basis of their level of psychopathology, psychopathy, and their capacity for attachment and relatedness. In turn, these differences are reflected in their psychic structure and object relation configurations and associated psychological defences. These underpin distinct motivations reflected in different offence types. This has important implications for the type of psychological interventions selected for sub-groups of juvenile sex offenders.

Treatment and treatment outcome with juvenile sex offenders

The contemporary psychological interventions invoked with juvenile sex offenders have been predominantly cognitive–behavioural and skill-based approaches. Of these multi-systemic therapy (MST), which has socio-ecological components and works with different systems with which the juvenile sex offender comes into contact, has been the most successful (Henggeler&Borduin, 1995; Henggeler, Schoenwald, Borduin, Rowland,&Cunningham, 1998). All these approaches have tended to regard juvenile sex offenders as a homogenous group with the same treatment needs. The average effect size for treatment approaches with juvenile sex offenders overall has been estimated at 0.43, with a lack of superiority for cognitive–behavioural interventions found. Meta-analytic reviews of treatment outcomes for juvenile sex offenders have noted that a confounding variable concerning effect sizes might be the “one size fits all” approach to treatment (Reitzel&Carbonell, 2006).

 

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