Counselling Resource

Psychology, Philosophy & Real Life

Dr George Simon, PhD

Footnote on the Abuse Excuse

This quick follow-up on the relationship between psychopathic behavior and childhood abuse provides some references on the research mentioned in an earlier article on predatory aggressive personalities.

Editor’s Note: This is just a quick follow-up with some references on the research mentioned in Dr Simon’s previous post. See “Understanding the Predatory Aggressive, Part 2”.

With respect to the brain differences in psychopaths, especially regarding the issue of responding to emotionally-laden concepts, there is now substantial research. Several studies by Christopher J. Patrick, et al such as in Clinical Science, Fall 1995, “Emotion and Temperament in Psychopathy,” and “Emotion and Psychopathy: Startling New Insights,” in Psychophysiology, 31, 1994 initially noted this phenomenon, and follow-up studies by Levenston, Bradley, Lang, and Patrick have replicated the findings. Recent studies such as “Anomalous Perceptual Asymmetries for Negative Emotional Stimuli in the Psychopath,” by Rodney Day and Stephen Wong, Journal of Abonormal Psychology, 1996 lend considerable support, too.

With respect to the issue of whether most sexual abusers abuse victims, the conclusions come from an analysis of statistics and research results compiled by the Center for Sex Offender Management, in the US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. The statistics overwhelmingly indicate that most victims of abuse never abuse others, and that most abuse victims are women whereas most perpetrators are men. In addition, offenders who are told they will be polygraphed greatly reduce their reports of being victimized themselves and greatly increase their reports of predatory offending. The conclusion, therefore, is that despite popular perceptions, there is no reason to presume that most sexual offending has its roots in past sexual victimization. The results of a recently completed study of sexual offenders in Arkansas, USA are also relevant. Of the nearly 9,000 registered offenders, a sample of 1700 offenders revealed that fewer than one third of the offenders reported anything in their histories even suggestive of sexual victimization at the hands of others. I think the overwhelming consensus in the empirical research is that while the strongest correlate to sexual abuse is physical abuse in childhood, it still doesn’t occur in the majority of cases.

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