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One of the most widely acknowledged explanations of paedophilia is the precondition model (Araji and Finkelhor, 1985,1986). Essentially, this categorizes factors that characterize offenders and the circumstances leading to offending. Research findings are used, wherever available, to confirm possible explanations of paedophilia. 

The model is based on the assumption that offenders are diverted from adult relationships. Remarkably, despite the apparent research basis of the theory, much of the evidence used is technically poor, weak or lacking. In a curious way, the theory's strength stems from this weakness since it stresses multiple causes of paedophilia -- aetiologically disparate patterns for different offenders. This encourages clinicians to explore widely for the idiosyncratic determining factors involved with each offender. 

In developing the approach, Araji and Finkelhor (1985, 1986) reviewed empirical research on explanations of paedophilia categorized into four basic types. 

(An asterisk indicates that they believe the relationship is reasonably well supported by research, although others may dispute this.): 

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1. Emotional congruence. 

This is the paedophile's emotional need to relate to children. It is usually expressed in terms of paedophiles having difficulties relating to adults. Sometimes children meet the paedophile's emotional needs, which adults cannot. 

Evidence for this factor includes: 

(1) That paedophiles are attracted to children because they lack dominance, so the offender can fulfil his need for dominance by expressing it against children; 

(2) Paedophiles are psychologically and socially immature; 

(3) Paedophiles lack self-esteem; 

(4) Paedophiles have been sexually abused in childhood and cope with the experience by the repetition of the offence or by identification with the aggressor*; 

(5) Paedophiles are narcissistic, extremely emotionally centred upon themselves; and 

(6) Men are socialized to be dominant and, due to social inadequacy, paedophiles are forced to exercise this over children. 

2. Sexual arousal. 

This concerns why children are sexually arousing to offenders. Of course, it is not proven that they all are. 

Nevertheless the evidence for this includes: 

(1) Laboratory tests which show that at least some paedophiles get erections to deviant images of children*; 

(2) Sexual abuse in childhood conditions sexual arousal to children*; 

(3) The experience of abusers in childhood provides a model for deviant sexual behaviour patterns*; 

(4) Hormone abnormalities; 

(5) Paedophiles mistakenly interpret physiological arousal as sexual arousal; and 

(6) Paedophiles are socialized by child pornography or advertising to regard children as sexual objects. 

3. Blockage. 

This consists of things that make adult sexual and emotional gratification unavailable. 

Aspects of paedophilia held to be relevant to this are: 

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(1) Difficulty in relating to adult females*; 

(2) Deficient social skills: some support from uncontrolled studies*; 

(3) Anxiety over sexual matters: some support from uncontrolled studies*; 

(4) Unresolved oedipal dynamics; 

(5) Disturbances in adult sexual romantic/sexual relationships; and 

(6) Repressive norms about sexual behaviour*. 

4. Disinhibition. 

Why are some adults not deterred by norm prohibitions against sex with children?: 

(1) Impulse disorder: true of a small proportion of offenders*; 

(2) Senility; 

(3) Mental retardation; 

(4) Alcohol*; 

(5) Failure of incest avoidance mechanisms, e.g. higher rates of abuse in stepfather families*; 

(6) Situation stress; and 

(7) Tolerance of incest within the culture or subculture. 

Araji and Finkelhor were well aware of a major problem with this model: the bulk of the the relevant evidence comes from highly selected samples, almost invariably from prisoner or offender populations. Consequently, the characteristics of the system may bias our understanding.

Thus, paedophiles may appear shy and ineffectual because these are the sort of people who get arrested; their apparently low self-esteem may be the result of the arrest process and the disdain with which they are treated by other prisoners; and offenders may learn the "language" that will help them to get early release. 

Finally, control groups, if used, may consist of students, who differ from offenders in many ways unrelated to the offence. 

Newer research bearing on the model provides only partial support (Howells, 1991).

Particularly important is the failure to replicate previous research  (Howells, 1978) concerning paedophiles' preoccupation with dominance (Horley, 1988). Without evidence of broader motivations for paedophiles' attraction to children, the notion of emotional congruence becomes little other than a self-evident truism. Howells (1991) supports Finkelhor's ideas about 
deviant sexual arousal on the basis that they are consistent with 

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recent evidence. Finkelhor regarded sexual arousal to children merely as a possible factor in offending, not a necessary one. One argument related to this suggests that changes in offending should follow from therapeutic reductions in deviant sexual arousal -- if deviant sexual arousal facilitates sexual offending against children. 

Although Quinsey's (1983) data showed that pre-treatment arousal to nude children predicted post-treatment arousal and post-treatment recidivism, nevertheless reductions in deviant arousal over the course of treatment were not correlated with decreased recidivism. Thus the notion that laboratory measured deviant sexual arousal to children contributes to offending is in doubt. 

Similarly, Marshall and Barbaree (1988) also found that deviant sexual arousal could be modified by treatment but that these changes were unrelated to recidivism. 

A number of comments need to be made.

Laboratory-based arousal measures may be invalid, for example, due to "cheating" by the offender. Furthermore, the assumption that nudity is the sexually arousing feature of the child slides may be unwarranted, despite seeming reasonable. 

Howitt and Cumberbatch (in press) found, for example, that paedophiles' sexually arousing stimuli are often quite legal materials. So, for example, a television programme for children featuring children at play might be a sexual "turn on" whereas "kiddyporn" is of no interest. In other words, crucial aspects of sexual arousal may be ignored in standard laboratory "erection" measures. 

There is another difficulty. In the simple behavioral model it is assumed that the offending serves to directly relieve sexual tension, the putative causal sequence being that the offender becomes aroused sexually and the offence satisfies these sexual needs. This may be mistaken in a proportion of cases. Some offences against children do not result in orgasm. For example, fondling a child through his or her clothing may not be directly associated with sexual climax. Such offences might help in the creation of fantasies for use during masturbation to achieve orgasm. 

If correct, such an explanation would cast further doubt on the use of phallometric assessment to test hypotheses about the role of sexual arousal to children in offending. 

Howells (1991) suggests that Finkelhor's preconditions imply different forms of treatment. So, for example, if relationships with adults are blocked, techniques such as assertiveness and social skills training which improve relationships with adults may be useful.

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