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Journal Article


Fromuth ME, Burkhart BR, Jones CW. J. Interpers. Violence 1991; 6(3): 376-384.


(Copyright © 1991, SAGE Publishing)






VioLit summary:

The goal of this article by Fromuth et al. was to identify and describe child molesting in a sample of late adolescent college men. Etiology, background, clinical measures, abusive behavior, and social psychological factors were included.

A quasi-experimental design was employed for this study. Two samples were taken and combined. 253 Midwestern students and 329 Southeastern university males were used. The mean age was 20. The subjects were recruited through Introductory Psychology for the experiment. Questionnaires were administered in groups. The subjects were asked about childhood victimization, family relationships, and family structure. Attitudinal and adjustment measures were also administered. Childhood victimization asked about the subjects' own sexual victimization and sexual involvement at age sixteen or older with children who were at least five years younger than themselves. Information was gathered about the ages of participants, gender of victim, and activities that were involved. Family relationships were measured using the Parental Support Scale, Parental Bonding Instrument (parental care and protection subscales), and the Sexual Punitiveness Scale. The structure of the family was measured by current parental marital status and whether prior to sixteen they have dived without a father for one year or more. They also measured childhood social isolation by the number of good friends they had at age twelve. Adjustment measures that were used included the 90 item Hopkins Symptom Checklist, including the Global Severity Index, the Beck Depression Inventory short form, Rosenberg's self-esteem scale, and measures of current sexual behavior and adjustment. Current sexual measures included whether or not the men had had intercourse with a woman and to rate current sexual adjustment on a seven point scale. Attitudinal measures included were the Hostility Toward Women Scale, Acceptance of Interpersonal Violence Scale, Rape Myth Acceptance Scale, and Adversarial Sexual Beliefs Scale. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data.

Sixteen out of the 582 college males reported experiences meeting the criteria for being a perpetrator of child sexual abuse. The sixteen had abused 21 difference children. Four were multiple perpetrators with three having two victims each and one having three victims. The men were 16 or 17 when they offended. The victims were 2/3 female and ranged in age from 3 to 12 with a mean age of 8. There were 58 incidents, 36 of these committed by the 4 multiple perpetrators. The period of time for the incidents ranged from 1 day to 1.5 years. 90% of these incidents involved a range from sexual kissing and hugging to oral-genital contact. Two reported only acts of exposing genitals to a child. 52% showed his genitals and touched the victim's sexual organs. In 38%, the victim touched the offender's organs. None reported sexual intercourse. 3 reported oral-genital contact. 86% reported initiating the activity. None were drinking. Molesters and nonmolesters were equally likely to report having more than two good friends at age 12. There were no differences reported in family structure or parent-child relationship measures. Those who abused were not more likely to have been abused when defined as sexual activity with an offender at least 16 years old and victim 5 years or more younger. When the definitions of abuse were redefined to include offenders less than 16, 7 of the molesters had been abused; this was significantly higher than the nonmolesters. 6 out of the 7 had been victimized by relatives, and 1 had been abused by a female friend. Mean age of the abuse was 8 (range 5-10) and the mean age of the perpetrator was 17 (range 12-26). There was fairly extensive contact in these encounters including rubbing organs. All 7 did not initiate the encounter, and 5 out of the 7 saw a neutral effect (not traumatic). There were no significant differences on adjustment measures. The molesters scored significantly higher on the Rape Myth Acceptance Scale. The authors concluded that either because of the adolescents' own abuse history or a more general attitude toward nonconsensual sexual relations, the offenders may lack awareness of possible damage to their own victims or the inappropriateness of their behavior. The molestation of these college students was described as fairly discreet and not linked to psychopathology or general background variables.

The authors said that future research needs to explore the more qualitative aspects of the abuse including the perpetrator's view of his behavior and the relationship with adverse acts with later sexual offending and prior abuse experience.

This study makes a contribution toward understanding the noncriminal frequency of sexual molestation. However, the samples, while not criminal, do not represent the population either. The fact that this is a college sample must be taken into consideration. Additionally, while the original sample was 584, the number of sexual offenders was 16. The analysis of this few molesters can only be regarded as preliminary. This study must be replicated with a representative sample of the total population and a greater number of offenders to have faith in the generalizability of the results.

(CSPV Abstract - Copyright © 1992-2007 by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Institute of Behavioral Science, Regents of the University of Colorado)

Juvenile Offender
Juvenile Male
Juvenile Violence
Sexual Assault Offender
Sexual Assault Incidence and Prevalence
Child Molester
Child Abuse Incidence and Prevalence
Child Abuse Offender
Child Sexual Abuse Offender
Child Sexual Abuse Incidence and Prevalence
College Student Research
Male Offender
Male Violence


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