Sexual interest in children among an online sample of men and women




The purpose of the present study was to explore the extent to which men and women in the general population report sexual interest in children and to examine distinct developmental experiences associated with self-reported sexual interest. Participants (262 females and 173 males) were recruited online and completed a questionnaire assessing sexual interest and adverse childhood experiences. Among men, 6% indicated some likelihood of having sex with a child if they were guaranteed they would not be caught or punished, as did 2% of women. Nine percent of males and 3% of females indicated some likelihood of viewing child pornography on the Internet. Overall, nearly 10% of males and 4% of females reported some likelihood of having sex with children or viewing child pornography. Males and females with any sexual interest in children reported higher likelihoods of engaging in other antisocial or criminal behaviors and also reported more dysfunctional childhoods (i.e., histories of sexual abuse, insecure parent–child attachments). Theoretical implications of the findings and suggestions for preventing the sexual victimization of children are provided.