Date of Degree

9-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Criminal Justice

Advisor(s)

Lila Kazemian

Committee Members

Valli Rajah

Karen Terry

Subject Categories

Criminology | Gender and Sexuality

Keywords

criminology, pedophilia, minor attraction, social justice, mental health

Abstract

The field of criminology generally assumes that attraction to minors is synonymous with sex offending. This erroneous and reductive assumption has led to a lack of exploration into the lives of individuals who are attracted to minors and who live their lives without offending. The lack of research on this topic reinforces the already overwhelming stigma against this population, and has limited our understanding of how individuals who are attracted to minors strategize to refrain from offending. This knowledge may also help others struggling with these attractions to remain resilient.

This dissertation is a result of efforts to learn more about the population of minor-attracted persons (MAPs) who have not committed a sexual offense against a child. In-depth, semi-structured interviews with 41 MAPs were completed between January and August of 2016. Topics of discussion during interviews included identity formation, coming out and facing stigma, coping emotionally with attractions, and motivations and strategies for refraining from offending.

Analysis of the study data yielded complex relationships between strategies for maintaining resilience to offending and strategies for maintaining emotional resilience in the face of ever-present societal stigma. Often their strategies introduced additional risks to their physical or emotional health, especially when these strategies involved seeking the help and support of others. Seeking out support from friends and family involved distinct risks, including suspicion and rejection. Seeking the support of mental health practitioners exposed participants to additional risk to their wellbeing. Participants’ approaches to resilience, and the outcomes of these approaches, are explored, and implications are drawn for future research, policy, and practice.

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