This study explores in an adolescent sample hypotheses about child sexual abuse perpetration drawn from contemporary theories that implicate insecure attachment and adolescent social development. Specifically, three 13- to 18-year-old adolescent male samples (sex offenders with child victims, sex offenders with peer/adult victims, and nonsex delinquent youth) were compared in a cross-sectional design. Participants completed a computer-administered self-report questionnaire and a semistructured attachment style interview. Attachment style was coded by two independent raters blind to study hypotheses and group membership. The results indicated an indirect effect for attachment style. Attachment anxiety affected involvement with peers and interpersonal adequacy. Feelings of interpersonal inadequacy, combined with oversexualization and positive attitudes toward others distinguished sex offenders with child victims from nonsex delinquents and from sex offenders with peer/adult victims. These data provide a preliminary model of sexual abuse perpetration consistent with contemporary theories. Attachment anxiety with a lack of misanthropic attitudes toward others appears to lead to isolation from peers and feelings of interpersonal inadequacy. Individuals with this constellation of factors may turn to children to meet their intimacy and sexual needs, both of which seem to be exaggerated compared with other troubled youth.
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- Attachment style
- Integrated theory
- Sexual abuse