An analysis of the personal constructs of adolescent sexual offenders

Norman David Kinsler (1988)

A pilot study designed to delineate the personal constructs of adolescent sexual offenders was completed, utilizing the Repertory Grid procedure. Eight adolescent sexual offenders, who were members of an outpatient treatment program at a community mental health center, and who fit O'Brien and Bera's (1986) criteria for undersocialized child exploiters, were chosen as experimental subjects. Eight adolescent high school students served as controls. Results of t-tests, principle components analysis, and box and whisker plots demonstrated that there were significant differences between adolescent sexual offenders and controls in their descriptions of important persons in their lives. Adolescent sexual offenders, unlike controls, tended to describe individuals in terms of their degree of tenderness, or the lack of same. When using such descriptors, they tended to ignore issues of relative powerlessness. The offenders studied tended to see their fathers, the teenager they disliked the most, the teacher they disliked the most, and the first child they had sexually abused, as cold, aloof and rejecting of them. They tended to describe their mothers and closest friends as nurturant towards them. Such findings have implications for the family dynamics and etiology of adolescent sexual offenders, and raise questions concerning widely-held beliefs about victim selection by these sexual offenders. Furthermore, the findings may provide a cautionary note with regard to the confrontational treatment style often used with adolescent sexual offenders.