2015-04-15

About the theory that pedophiles have cognitive distortions

I have been reading again, this time about cognitive distortions in sexual offenders - following the trail of articles by Tony Ward.

The cognitive distortions in those papers are more a "belief systems" than an actual impairment of the cognitive function, like the definition in psychology says. The questionnaire method by Ward & Co gave positive results, meaning that sexual offenders have a deviant belief system, among others the usual "children as sexual beings" theory. A german follow up study used vignettes and came to negative results. Vignettes denote a method, where one with a temporal delay has to retell the story back. The underlying assumption is that memory is reconstructive, not reproductive. Hence, the retold story is affected by the associations one creates when listening to the story in the first place.

Now, this was not the thing that got me thinking. Ward also describes the theory of mind, which is interesting. Basically, as a small child we have to develop a mirror image of how much other people know. The famous experiment is a puppet theater, where one figure places a chocolate under a red cup, and goes off-stage. Then, another puppet moves the chocolate from under the red cup to under a green cup. The first puppet returns and is surprised that it cannot find the chocolate under the red cup. 3 years olds don't get why the puppet does not find the chocolate, but 4 years old are mature enough and find it funny. Now, this was simple but not my point.

It gets interesting when one starts participating in the game of dating during puberty. Then, one has not only to guess knowledge and emotions, but also expectations and intentions. Sometimes a no means a "yes, maybe later". And it gets more and more intricate. Maybe some become pedophiles, because they just gave up in that game. After all, pedophiles have been kids themselves and know exactly how a child thinks. Moreover, if one grew up in a dysfunctional family and did not experience warmth and intimacy, then a whole dimension is unknown to those unfortunates. Ward sounds like he talks about belief systems that are voluntarily chosen by his subjects. But if one grows up, not knowing the difference between intimacy and sexuality, then any advances for intimacy of a child would be interpreted as a wish for a sexual relationship.

Arriving at this point, i got goosebumps. I know for my part that i always had trouble deciphering the mood of my age peers. And i also got to know that i probably had a fearful avoidant attachment to my mother (being a single parent child), who also was narcissistic. I already know that i have at least 3 different types of pedophilia, and this "children are simpler to relate to" is one of them. James Cantor's finding of less white matter might be related to that. If one has less cabling in the brain parts involved in interpersonal communication, then finding children as easier partners makes sense.

And it gets worse. If one starts the game of dating in a bad position due to a childhood head injury or dysfunctional family, then it escalates. Everybody else advances and improves their "theory of mind" abilities, while those affected are basically losers and left behind. Preferring the company of smaller children during that time even reduces the amount of training one gets. Mobbing by age peers, being a coward, having little social support and one is doomed to the destiny of pedophilia. Also i got the impression that many pedophiles score high on the autistic scale, which also affects social relationships.

Pedophilia affects mostly men. The asymmetry of that dating game could be an explanation for that. Don't boys have a more difficult part in guessing the intention and expectations of girls, while girls essentially say yes and no randomly. The boys part is much more strategically, while girls only apply tactics.

The other thing is this missing knowledge and training. If one grows up with very little warmth and intimacy, then one could confuse a sexual advance with a demand for intimacy. If one does not know the difference and claims that some children want sex, then those claims look somewhat questionable. I have been to summer camps and had supervised groups of boys. Some boys came and wanted to be cuddled or some physical contact, but i don't remember anything remotely sexual. And we have been naked too, but not even then. Ward claims that sexual offenders have a different mind set, but in my humbled opinion, it could be simply an underdeveloped understanding of how adults interact. And this conclusion makes me feeling like i'm faulty.

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