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Comparisons between Extra-familial and Incest Offenders  

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Conventionally, incestuous fathers are regarded as psycho-dynamically different from extra-familial offenders. Thus, it would be of considerable theoretical significance if it were demonstrated that incestuous fathers either 

(i) show no arousal to erotic materials depicting children, or 

(ii) show a strong response. 

The latter would indicate that they are basically paedophile. 

There is one piece of research highly pertinent to this issue. Previous research had been equivocal on whether paedophiles and incest offenders responded differently to depictions of children. Different studies had produced opposite results. They also differed methodologically -- one used slides whereas the other used audio-taped descriptions, one used inpatient offenders whereas the other used outpatient offenders. 

In an attempt to clarify the situation, a further study used both audio and visual stimuli with pure groups of 

(i) heterosexually orientated paedophiles, 

(ii) homosexually orientated paedophiles, 

(iii) incest offenders against daughters/stepdaughters and 

(iv) mixed incest/paedophile cases 
(Murphy et al., 1986). 

Not surprisingly, there were more single men in the paedophile groups than in the incest groups. 

Penis circumference was measured using a metal-band strain gauge. The slide stimuli featured seven age categories -- 5-, 9-, 12-, 15-, 18-, 25- and 35-year-olds -- each presented for two minutes. The audio tapes were in seven categories, which varied according to the level of sexual aggression and physical assault involved. The categories were: 

(i) child initiated, 

(ii) child/adult mutual, 

(iii) adult non-physical coercion, 

(iv) adult physical coercion, 

(v) sadism, 

(vi) physical assault with no sexual content and 

(vii) adult mutual. 

The audio tapes were two minutes long and described activities 

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involving children of 8 to 10 years. The slides and tapes were chosen to reflect the sexual preferences of the offender. 

The findings were complex and not always consistently statistically reliable. Homosexual paedophiles had a greater response to the tapes involving children than those involving adults; this was also the trend for heterosexual paedophiles. The incest and mixed groups showed more response to adults than did the paedophile groups. The pattern for slides was somewhat different, although the two paedophile groups showed far greater response to the child slides than to those of adults. Incest offenders responded more to slides of adults. The mixed group responded to adults and children approximately equally. 

The characteristics of individual offenders' sexual arousal may be clinically more important than comparisons between groups. Significantly, even with the slide stimuli (which produced generally lower levels of arousal), 40% of incest offenders actually showed an equal or greater erection to pictures of children than to those of adults. So, whatever the role of family dynamics in incest, such offenders also frequently demonstrate deviant arousal patterns to underage children. 

Another study compared paedophiles (who had offended against under 12-year-olds) with a group of biological fathers and stepfathers plus social "stepfathers" (Freund, Watson and Dickey, 1991). Only men who denied interest in minors and sexual fantasies of underage children were used. A further group consisted of offenders against women. Penis volume changes to erotic material involving different age groups were measured. 

Incest offenders were three times more likely to be diagnosed as gynephiles (i.e. having their greatest sexual responses to women) than were paedophiles. The non-incest child molesters were more likely to be diagnosed as paedophile rather than gynephile, but not so convincingly. Offenders against adult women were overwhelmingly diagnosed as gynephiles. 

Presented in this way, the results suggest strongly that circumstances or opportunity  
enhance the likelihood that "normal" heterosexual men will offend against children if any are "conveniently " available at home. In other words, incestuous abusers are sexually normal; laboratory tests demonstrate their preference for adult women. This is somewhat illusory, since taking the proportions of each group identified as primarily erotically attracted to adult women by phallometry reveals the following: 

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Offenders against adult women: 68% gynephile 

Incestuous offenders against single child: 49% gynephile 

Incestuous offenders against two or more children: 38% gynephile 

Non-incest offenders against single child: 45% gynephile 

Non-incest offenders against two or more children: 16% gynephile 

The rest of the cases are made up of men who were faking, who were low on responsiveness to any stimulus, who were aroused to adults and children more or less equally, or who had a paedophiliac preference for children. 

This, in general, is not strong evidence that there are major differences between incestuous  and non-incestuous child abusers. We should also be aware that Freund, Watson and Dickey (1991) classify on the basis of relative responses to child and adult stimuli; they provide no evidence other than this of the extent of the men's arousal to children in absolute terms. We do not know how much the men are responding to children except in comparison to their response to adults. 

Clearly, phallometric laboratory assessment is far from an infallible "acid test" of a man's sexual activities in the community.

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