Two Sides of One Coin: A Comparison of Clinical and Neurobiological Characteristics of Convicted and Non-Convicted Pedophilic Child Sexual Offenders
High prevalence of child sexual offending stand in contradiction to low conviction rates (one-tenth at most) of child sexual offenders (CSOs). Little is known about possible differences between convicted and non-convicted pedophilic CSOs and why only some become known to the judicial system. This investigation takes a closer look at the two sides of "child sexual offending" by focusing on clinical and neurobiological characteristics of convicted and non-convicted pedophilic CSOs as presented in the Neural Mechanisms Underlying Pedophilia and sexual offending against children (NeMUP)*-study. Seventy-nine male pedophilic CSOs were examined, 48 of them convicted. All participants received a thorough clinical examination including the structured clinical interview (SCID), intelligence, empathy, impulsivity, and criminal history. Sixty-one participants (38 convicted) underwent an inhibition performance task (Go/No-go paradigm) combined with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Convicted and non-convicted pedophilic CSOs revealed similar clinical characteristics, inhibition performances, and neuronal activation. However, convicted subjects' age preference was lower (i.e., higher interest in prepubescent children) and they had committed a significantly higher number of sexual offenses against children compared to non-convicted subjects. In conclusion, sexual age preference may represent one of the major driving forces for elevated rates of sexual offenses against children in this sample, and careful clinical assessment thereof should be incorporated in every preventive approach.