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Background: Increasing attention has focused on the emotional dysregulation that can result from adverse childhood experiences among those who commit sexually violent crimes. While studies confirm a relationship between child maltreatment and anger the research is limited and it is unclear how anger and child maltreatment effect the use of violence during the commission of the sex crime.

Methods: This study examined the relationship between childhood maltreatment, anger and violent behavior by reviewing the records of 571 adult male offenders convicted of sexual assault or child molestation. The aims of the present study were to 1) examine differences in anger levels between those offenders who engaged in verbal or physical violence or used a weapon during the commission of their crime; 2) explore differences in anger levels for those sex offenders who experienced childhood abuse (physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect) and those who were not; 3) examine whether there were differences in anger between rapists and child molesters and 4) assess whether anger either mediated or moderated the relationship between childhood abuse and the use of violence in the commission of the crime.

Results: Overall we found that sex offenders who were rated as being angrier were more likely to have used violence in the commission of their crime and were more likely to be abused as children. Further, while these relationships held for both rapists and child molesters independently, rapists were found to be angrier than child molesters. Finally, anger neither mediated nor moderated the relationship between an offender’s adverse childhood and committing a violent sex crime.

Conclusions: These results suggest that anger should be target in intervention and prevention programs with violent sex offenders.


This article was originally published in Health and Justice, available at DOI 10.1186/s40352-015-0025-3

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited



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