Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Child sexual exploitation material access motivation

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Child Sexual Exploitation Material access motivation:
What motivates people to access, watch, and distribute CSEM and what can be done about it?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Child Sexual Exploitation Material (CSEM) or more commonly "child pornography", is a term that defines a criminal offence where a visual representation involving use of a minor, or one appearing to be a minor, is engaging in sexually explicit conduct (Elliott & Beech 2009).

As the internet continues to evolve coherently so does the deep or dark web. The dark web was renowned for its black market illicit substances sales but now includes CSEM. Users of the dark web remain anonymous as their IP address is hidden and therefore protects users from surveillance and censorship (Mehta, 2001).

Since the mid-1990s, there has been a significant increase in awareness amongst the community/public and professionals regarding the use of communications technologies in accessing and distributing of CSEM. As the internet and technology is continually advancing and growing, the prevention and control of CSEM continually presents new challenges for the Police and other legislative systems (Elliott & Beech 2009). It is alarming the extent to which CSEM is available and also the number of users accessing it[factual?]. However it is hard to know for sure the actual number of users and distributers of child pornography due to the inherently dynamic nature of online systems and detecting offenses usually requires the investigation of an individual's computer (Taylor & Quayle, 2003).

The international policing agency Interpol's Child Abuse Image Database (ICAID) is a global database for the forensic analysis of CSEM. It currently contains more than 520,000 images and has been used to identify 680 victims worldwide (Interpol, 2008). Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), is a UK based based internet watchdog organisation and recently reported that they had identified 2,755 worldwide internet domains containing images of child sexual abuse . Of these 80% were found to be commercial in nature, which is an increase of 33% from 2006 (IWF, 2008). “Analysis of site content indicates that 80% of the images recovered were of children under 10 years of age, with 10% of under 2 years of age, 33% between 3 and 6 years of age and 37% between 6 and 10 years of age. These images predominantly depicted more female victims (79%) than male victims (7%), with 14% of images depicting both male and female victims”(IWF, 2008).

Motivational theories of accessing, watching and distributing CSEM[edit | edit source]

As CSEM is a fairly new area of research there are limited validated theories, studies and research on this taboo topic. There are also many questions regarding the characteristics and motivations of child pornography offenders[vague]. Many researchers are hoping to shed light on this controversial subject, however there are still many conflicting theories regarding motivation of accessing, watching and distributing CSEM. What is known is that the explanation given by the offender is crucial to the management strategy and treatment program[factual?]. For example, someone who reports accessing and watching child pornography as a result of sexual attraction to children requires a completely different intervention compared to someone who reports that there access was due to a compulsive sexual behavior involving pornography in general[factual?]. It is also crucial to identify any denial, harm minimisation or minimisation of responsibility as these explanations will require other interventions[factual?].

It should also be noted that there is a significant difference between child pornography offenders who use or produce child pornography as part of contact sexual offending, those who seek child pornography in order to gratify their sexual interest in children through masturbation and fantasy, those who collect child pornography because it is unusual or taboo or because they are interested in many different kinds of pornography, and those who access child pornography out of curiosity about the nature and availability of child pornography (Lanning, 1992).

One of the earliest studies of explanations given by child pornography offenders was a qualitative study of interviews with 13 men convicted of downloading online child pornography (Lanning, 1992). Six categories of explanations for the use of child pornography were identified by these authors:

  1. As a means of achieving sexual arousal, where images were used as either a substitute or a stimulus for contact sexual offending.
  2. As a source of pleasure through collecting a complete series of images.
  3. As a means of enabling online social relationships with like-minded others.
  4. As a replacement for absent or unsatisfying relationships in the real world.
  5. As therapy for exploring and dealing with one’s problems.
  6. As a manifestation of the addictive properties of the internet.

Typologies[edit | edit source]

In order to assist professionals working with convicted child sexual offenders and to help explain motivation behind these offences, Krone (2004) developed typologies for online child sexual offenders (Krone, 2004; Lanning, 2001; Sullivan & Beech, 2003).

Table 1: A typology of online child pornography offending[factual?]

Type of Involvement Features Nature of Abuse
Browser Response to spam, accidental hit on suspect site - material knowingly saved Indirect
Private fantasy Trawler Conscious creation of online text or digital images for private use

Actively seeking child pornography using openly available browsers

Non-secure collector

Secure collector

Actively seeking material often through peer-to-peer networks

Actively seeking material but only through secure networks. Collector syndrome and exchange as an entry barrier

Groomer Cultivating an online relationship with one or more children. The offender may or may not seek material in any of the above ways. Pornography may be used to facilitate abuse Direct
Physical abuser Abusing a child who may have been introduced to the offender online. The offender may or may not seek material in any of the above ways. Pornography may be used to facilitate abuse Direct
Producer Records own abuse or that of others (or induces children to submit images of themselves) Direct
Distributor May distribute at any one of the above levels Indirect

Due to the gaps in literature and research it can be difficult to determine the exact motivation and typology that child pornography offenders fit in to. Also [grammar?] majority of the explanations behind their offending can overlap into multiple pathways, which makes it difficult to predict risk and future recidivism. Krone’s (2004) typology theory takes this into consideration and developed these four general categories (Elliott & Beech 2009).

  1. Periodically Prurient Offenders - consists of those accessing impulsively, or out of a general curiosity, who carry out this behaviour sporadically, potentially as part of a broader interest in that may not be related to a specific sexual interest in children (Elliott & Beech 2009).
  2. Fantasy-Only Offenders - consists of those who access/trade images to fuel a sexual interest in children and who have no known history of contact sexual offending (Elliott & Beech 2009).
  3. Direct Victimization Offenders - consists of those who utilize online technologies as part of a larger pattern of contact and non-contact sexual offending, including child pornography and the online in order to facilitate the later offline commission of contact sexual offences (Elliott & Beech 2009).
  4. Commercial Exploitation Offenders, consisting of the criminally-minded who produce or trade images to make money (Elliott & Beech 2009).

Etiological Theories of Sexual Offending against Children[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

The Pathways Model[edit | edit source]

Ward and Siegert (2002) have constructed one of the most comprehensive multifactorial theories explaining the onset and maintenance of child sexual offending (Ward & Siegert, 2002). The pathways model of child sexual offending identifies five pathways or subtypes of child molesters, each characterised by a unique configuration of psychological deficits (Elliott & Beech 2009).

The Pathways Model theory assumes that the clinical problems displayed by child sexual offenders stem from an interaction between the four vulnerability factors explained below.

Each of these vulnerability deficit factors or pathways can arise as a result of biological factors, environmental experiences and learning factors (Ward & Siegert, 2002). Research shows that [grammar?] majority of offenders will display many of these deficits, however there is typically one primary deficit driving their offending behaviour (Elliott & Beech 2009)

Emotional Regulation Deficits

Is [grammar?] the inability to recognise and express emotions, or effectively manage negative emotional states, behaviours and feelings. These offenders usually have very poor self-regulatory abilities and usually accomplish their goals or meet their needs through anti-social means (Ward & Siegert, 2002).

Deviant or Distorted Sexual Scripts

[grammar?] Describes unusual cognitive representations of sex, or sexual encounters. For example, this would include abnormal preferences for sexual partners (e.g., children), sexual acts (e.g., sadomasochism), or the context in which sex is sought (e.g., a preoccupation with casual sex). All sexual offenders have sexual deviance deficits which is what separates them from any other offender cohort (Ward & Siegert, 2002).

Intimacy/Social Skills Deficits

[grammar?] Is the poor ability to form and maintain relationships within social contexts, especially with adults. These individuals are at risk of offending when they have feelings of social isolation, rejection or when they are experiencing stress in relationships (if they are able to form any) (Ward & Siegert, 2002).

Antisocial Cognitions

[grammar?] Are anti-social beliefs or attitudes that a [grammar?] offender may have and their offending behaviour reflects these distorted cognitions. They are usually pro-criminal and can include beliefs such as the children in the pornography they have watched or distribute were consenting or that children are sexual beings (Ward & Siegert, 2002).

Ward and Siegert have also developed a fifth pathway which describes multiple dysfunctional mechanisms or deficits. These individuals have dysfunctions in all of the primary psychological mechanisms and typically paedophiles fit into this pathway. True paedophilles have all four pathways and deficits in action or operation at the same time (Ward & Siegert, 2002).

Treatment of Child Sexual Offenders[edit | edit source]

In the past, rehabilitation treatment for sexual offenders was non-existent as the correctional system and centres had a punitive or weakness-focused approach. These early prison-based approaches to treatment returned poor results, and showed no significant impact on or reduction of recidivism (Furby, Weinrott, & Blackshaw, 1989; Quinsey, Harris, Rice, & Lalumiere, 1995). Lösel and Schmucker (2005) conducted a meta-analytic review which found that cognitive-behavioural based therapies (CBT) reduced recidivism by 37%.

A more recent study by Duwe and Goldman (2009) found strong evidence supporting custody treatment programs. Offenders who engaged in treatment reduced their risk of recidivism by 27%, and completing treatment reduced this by a further 33%. However, it is noted that this did not include community-based programs, only in custody treatment programs. Community based programs have shown to be significant in the reduction of recidivism[factual?].

Good Lives Model[edit | edit source]

The Good Lives Model is a recent development in sexual offender treatment. It incorporates a positive psychology approach, which focuses on strengths as opposed to weaknesses (Ward & Marshall, 2004). This theory is circulated around the notion that humans are active, goal-seeking beings and these actions reflect attempts to achieve primary human goods. These are now defined as:

  1. Life (including healthy living and functioning)
  2. Knowledge (how well informed one feels about things that are important to them)
  3. Excellence in Play (hobbies and recreational pursuits)
  4. Excellence in Work (including mastery experiences)
  5. Excellence in Agency (autonomy, power and self-directedness)
  6. Inner peace (freedom from emotional turmoil and stress)
  7. Relatedness (including intimate, romantic, and familial relationships)
  8. Community (connection to wider social groups)
  9. Spirituality (in the broad sense of finding meaning and purpose in life)
  10. Pleasure (feeling good in the here and now)
  11. Creativity (expressing oneself through alternative forms).

Whilst it is assumed that all humans seek out all the primary goods to some degree, the weightings or priorities given to specific primary goods reflect an offender’s values and life priorities (Ward & Marshall, 2004). This theory identifies two primary routes that lead to offending: direct and indirect (Elliott & Beech 2009). The direct pathway is implicated when an offender actively attempts (often implicitly) to satisfy primary goods through his or her offending behaviour. For example, an individual lacking the competencies to satisfy the good of intimacy with an adult might instead attempt to meet this good through sexual offending against a child. (Ward & Marshall, 2004). The indirect pathway is implicated when, through the pursuit of one or more goods, something goes skewed which leads to criminal or anti-social behaviour. For example, conflict between the goods of intimacy and autonomy might lead to the break up of a relationship, and subsequent feelings of loneliness and distress (Elliott & Beech 2009).

Maladaptive coping strategies such as the use or abuse of alcohol or illicit substances to alleviate stress can lead to a loss of control result in sexual offending (Ward & Marshall, 2004).

Risk Need Responsivity[edit | edit source]

Another popular and influential model for the assessment and treatment of offenders is The Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model. It was first researched and developed in 1990 and it is still considered today perhaps the most influential model for the assessment and treatment of offenders (Andrews & Bonta, 2006). The RNR model is a cognitive social learning theory of criminal conduct and continues to be enhanced to ensure efficacy (Andrews & Bonta, 2006). The three core principles of the RNR model are:

  1. Risk principle: Match the level of service to the offender’s risk to re-offend.
  2. Need principle: Assess criminogenic needs and target them in treatment.
  3. Responsivity principle: Maximise the offender’s ability to learn from a rehabilitative intervention by providing cognitive behavioural treatment and tailoring the intervention to the learning style, motivation, abilities and strengths of the offender.

A crucial aspect of this treatment theory is the development and maintenance of a therapeutic relationship between the offender and professional. It is also essential that the treatment interventions and programs are appropriate and sufficient to address offending behaviours and any maladaptive coping strategies.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

In conclusion, there appears to be a huge market[factual?] for Child Sexual Exploitation Material with a vast amount of child pornography available online. There is also a significantly large audience motivated to access and watch this material and in some cases even distribute it. As a result, researchers are trying to determine the motivation and characteristics behind child sexual offending. Theorists have developed possible offending pathways, dysfunctional and vulnerable deficits, typologies and relapse pathways however, none of these have been able to be empirically validated as of yet. Current etiological theory is not necessarily based on internet child sexual offenders and as a result means that we may not be capturing the individual motives and deficits of this offence type. Therefore best practice involves a qualitative approach, incorporating multiple theories such as the pathways model, identification of offender typologies, the good lives model and the risk needs responsivity model. However, research has shown that the most effective treatment in reducing recidivism is cognitive-behavioural based models and programs.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Andrews, D. A., Bonta, J., & Wormith, S. J. (2006). The recent past and near future of risk and/or need assessment. Crime and Delinquency, 52, 7-27.

Baldwin, K., Sex Offender Risk Assessment, Retrieved 4 December 2016 from

Beckett, R. C. (1987). The Children and Sex Questionnaire. Available from Richard Beckett, Room FF39, The Oxford Clinic, Littlemore Health Centre, Sandford Road, Littlemore, Oxford, UK.

Beckett, R. C. & Fisher, D. (1994). Assessing victim empathy: A new measure. Paper presented at the 13th Annual Conference of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, San Francisco, CA, November 1994.

Beech, A. R. (1998). A psychometric typology of child abusers. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 42, 319􏰀339.

Beech, A. R, Friendship, C., Erikson, M. & Hanson, R. K. (2002). The relationship between static and dynamic risk factors and reconviction in a sample of UK child abusers. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 14, 155􏰀167.

Bickley, J. & Beech, A. R. (2001). Classifying child molesters: Its relevance to theory and clinical practice. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45, 51􏰀69.

Elliott, I. A., & Beech, A. R. (2009). Understanding online child pornography use: Applying sexual offense theory to internet offenders. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14(3), 180-193.

Furby, L., Weinrott, M.R., & Blackshaw, L. (1989). Sex offender recidivism: A review. Psychological Bulletin, 105, 3-30.

Interpol (2008). Databases. Interpol Fact Sheet, COM/FS/2008-07/GI-04 Retrieved 03 October, 2008, from

Krone, T. (2004). A typology of online child pornography offending. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 279, 1−6.

Lalor, K., & McElvaney, R. (2010). Child sexual abuse, links to later sexual exploitation/high-risk sexual behavior, and prevention/treatment programs. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse.

Lanning, K. V. (2001). Child molesters: A behavioral analysis, fourth edition.Arlington, VA: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Retrieved 12 April 2008 from

Lanning, K. V. (1992). Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis. Report no. NC-70. Washington, DC: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Available at:

Lösel, F., & Schmucker, M. (2005). The effectiveness of treatment for sexual offenders: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 1, 117-146

Mehta, M. D. (2001). Pornography in usenet: A study of 9,800 randomly selected images. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 4(6), 695-703.

Osborn, J., & Beech, A.R., (2006). The Suitability of Risk Matrix 2000 for Use with Internet Sex Offenders. Unpublished Masters thesis, University of Birmingham, U.K

Quinsey, V. L., Lalumiere, M. L., Rice, M. E., & Harris, G. T. (1995). Predicting sexual offenses. In J. C. Campbell (Ed.), Assessing dangerousness: Violence by sexual offenders, batterers, and child abusers (pp. 114-137). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sullivan, J., & Beech, A. R. (2003). Are collectors of child abuse images a risk to children? In A. MacVean & P. Spindler (Eds.), Policing paedophiles on the Internet (pp. 11−20).

Taylor, M., & Quayle, E. (2003). Child pornography: An Internet crime. Hove, U.K: Brunner-Routledge.

Ward, T., & Hudson, S. M. (1998). The construction and development of theory in the sexual offending area: A meta-theoretical framework. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 10, 47−63

Ward, T., & Marshall, W. L. (2004). Good Lives, aetiology and the rehabilitation of sex offenders: A bridging theory. Journal of Sexual Aggression. Special Issue: Treatment & Treatability, 10, 153-169.

Ward, T., & Siegert, R. J. (2002). Toward and comprehensive theory of child sexual abuse: A theory knitting perspective. Psychology, Crime, and Law, 9, 319−351

External links[edit | edit source]