Date of Degree

9-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Cynthia Calkins

Committee Members

Elizabeth Jeglic

Rebecca Weiss

Marc Boccaccini

Sandi Lewis

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Criminology and Criminal Justice

Keywords

forensic psychology, clinical psychology, sexual offender, sexually violent predator, paraphilia

Abstract

Sexually violent predator (SVP) legislation requires, in part, that an individual has a mental abnormality which causes difficulty in controlling sexual behavior. Previous research has found paraphilia not otherwise specified (NOS) to be one of the most prevalent diagnoses proffered in SVP evaluations. Since these studies, however, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) has updated the paraphilia NOS diagnosis in two ways. First, this diagnosis has been divided into two new diagnoses—other specified paraphilic disorder (OSPD) and unspecified paraphilic disorder. Second, OSPD requires an added specifier to indicate the individual’s source of sexual arousal. To date, no study has systematically explored how the revision to paraphilia NOS has affected diagnoses within SVP evaluations. The current study explored the prevalence and diagnostic reliability of paraphilic disorders and associated specifiers in a sample of 190 adult men evaluated for SVP civil commitment. Results indicated that OSPD was the second most common paraphilic disorder, next to pedophilia, proffered in these SVP evaluations. However, there was poor to fair agreement between evaluators in providing this diagnosis. Additionally, while ‘non-consent’ and ‘hebephilia’ were the most commonly used specifiers, there was little consistency in which specifiers were used; and evaluators appear to be using an idiosyncratic approach to determine which labels to apply to OSPD. Given that the presence of a mental abnormality is the cornerstone to the constitutionality of SVP commitment, diagnostic practices should be based in reliable and valid techniques. Implications for research, practice, and legislation are discussed.

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