Introduction: Cognitive-behavioral approaches are the current treatment of choice for sexual offenders. Despite the focus on the role of cognitive distortions in sexual offending behavior, some researchers began to stress the relevance of underlying schemata in this field. Recent research shows a relationship between Early Maladaptive Schemas (EMSs) and sexual offending. Furthermore, there is a gap in the literature concerning the role of sexual self-schemas in sexual assault. The purpose of the present study was to examine EMSs and sexual self-schemas in four groups of convicted men. The role of these schemas on cognitive distortions of rapists was also investigated.
Methods: A total of 48 child molesters (16 pedophilic and 32 non-pedophilic), 50 rapists and 51 non-sex offenders completed the Young Schema Questionnaire (Young, 2005) and the Men’s Sexual Self-Schema Scale (Anderson, Cyranowski, & Espindle, 1999). Rapists also completed the Bumby Rape Scale (Bumby, 1996).
Results: Results showed that EMSs of defectiveness/shame, vulnerability to harm/illness, negativity/pessimism, and unrelenting standards were more prevalent in pedophilic child molesters, and EMSs of vulnerability to harm/illness and punitiveness were more prevalent in rapists, compared to nonpedophilic child molesters and/or non-sex offenders. Rapists presented significantly higher levels of powerfull-aggressive sexual self-schema compared to the nonpedophilic group. Likewise, vulnerability to harm/illness schema and powerful-aggressive sexual self-schema were significant predictors of cognitive distortions in rapists.
Conclusions: Overall, our findings suggest the role of cognitive schemas as potential vulnerability factors for sexual offending, namely pedophilia and rape. We think these findings may have significant clinical implications.
As a psychology and medicine student in the sixties and early seventies I realized that sexology was missing in the education and training curriculum for most health professionals. This concern encouraged me to ask my own department and the University of Gothenburg to modify the current curricula making sexology a compulsory subject in the academic training for physicians and psychologists in the first place.
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