Date of Award

Summer 8-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor or Mentor

Elizabeth Jeglic

Second Reader

Cynthia Calkins

Third Advisor

Louis Schlesinger


Sexual grooming is a process used by individuals in order to facilitate sexual abuse with a minor while simultaneously avoiding detection. As many sexual grooming behaviors are used before the perpetration of abuse, the identification of grooming behaviors is integral to child sexual abuse prevention. To date, few studies have researched the identification of sexual grooming behaviors utilized by child molesters and even fewer have examined the identification of those same behaviors utilized on adolescents. This study examined whether the age of the victim (child versus adolescent) affected how well someone can identify sexual grooming behaviors. Five hundred and forty-eight participants were randomly assigned to read one of four vignettes representing the four testing conditions (i.e., Grooming: Adolescent, Grooming: Child, Non- grooming: Adolescent, and Non-grooming: Child) and asked to rate the likelihood the person in the story is a child molester and the likelihood the person in the story will sexually abuse another character. This study found no significant difference in likelihood ratings that the person was a child molester between the adolescent and child conditions; but a significant difference was observed in likelihood ratings that the person was going to sexually abuse another character between the adolescent and child conditions. Findings indicated that the age of the victim does have some effect on how sexual grooming behaviors are perceived by the general public, in that the older the victim, the higher the likelihood ratings that they will be sexually abused. These findings will be discussed as they pertain to identification and prevention of child sexual abuse.


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