Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor

Elizabeth Jeglic

Second Reader

Cynthia Calkins

Third Advisor

Brandy Blasko


Internet predation of minors has increasingly become a focus of child abuse research and legislation. Concerns have arisen regarding “online grooming,” the ongoing process during which an adult offender prepares a child for sexual abuse by gaining emotional access to the child through an intimate online relationship. The present study provided one of the first comprehensive examinations of a victim's perspective of online grooming. Participants were 374 male and female college students at a public undergraduate institution who completed an online survey covering demographics, lifestyle factors, and experiences online of sexual solicitation or online grooming. Results showed that approximately 30% (n = 75) of the respondents reported chatting with adult strangers on-line when they were minors, with 66% (n = 49) of those reporting sexual solicitation from adult strangers. Moreover, 53% (n = 40) of those who chatted with adult strangers reported some involvement in an interpersonal online relationship that could be characterized as grooming. Very few respondents reported (12%; n = 8) meeting and engaging in sexual intercourse with an adult from an online chatroom when they were youth. Importantly, open-ended responses revealed that the experience of having sexualized conversations or romantic relationships with adults online has been normalized by children and adolescents. That is, the romantic overtures in these conversations were perceived by participants to be legitimate consensual relationships, even when those relationships led to physical sexual intercourse between an adult and child. The findings from the present study have significant implications for prevention of online sexual grooming by understanding the way in which young Internet users perceive potentially predatory communications and relationships with adults.



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