Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Eliana Suarez

Advisor Role

Thesis Advisor


Title: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Understanding the Phenomenon of Adults Who Are Sexually Attracted to Children

Purpose: The goal of this research is to understand the phenomenon of adult sexual attraction to children through a prevention lens, from perspectives of those who are sexually attracted to children. Gaining direct experiences from those who live with this problem every day may provide insight into perceptions, beliefs, risks and prevention strategies for this population.

Methods: This study utilizes a mixed methods approach in three phases. With permission from the founders of the website called Virtuous Pedophiles, the members of this peer support network formed the study population. The first phase consisted on a review of online commentaries written by youth and adults who are sexually attracted to children. The second phase included the development of an online survey and the distribution of the survey link to members of the website with open and close ended questions. Two standardized instruments were used to measure self-esteem and stigma to ask for help. A statistical analysis was done of quantitative data as well as a thematic analysis of qualitative data gathered by two open ended questions at the end of the online survey. The third phase analyzed open ended survey question which triangulated findings from all three phases of the study.

Findings: A combination of individual, network and social factors appear to contribute to enhance or inhibit the risks for non-offending adults attracted to children to act on this attraction. Factors that contributed to increased risk included self-esteem and stigma, isolation, barriers to seeking help, and age of onset. Specific protective factors that may decrease risk and motivate this population to not offend included self-control, and both informal (peer) and formal supports, which were consistent among participants through the triangulation of data.

Conclusion: Findings of the thesis suggest several recommendations for social work practice, research and policy. Considering that current strategies have not eradicated CSA and that they remain to be reactionary, gaining insight in to how some adults with a sexual attraction to children remain non-offending can help to inform future treatment or support strategies. Alternative treatment or support for this population could contribute to the prevention of CSA. A social ecological model is used to review implications within findings as a multi-level multi-faceted approach to ending CSA.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons