01 March 2012

Dear Dr. James,

Dr. Cantor--

I'm a Licensed Psychologist and Psychiatric Examiner for my state.  My job is to evaluate recidivistic sex offenders, usually before they are released from prison, and to give the courts guidance as to whether the individual should be confined to a psychiatric hospital upon release, or be involved with "Strict and Intensive Supervision and Treatment (SIST)" in the community. 

Lately, attorneys have tried to put forth legal arguments involving individuals acting out sexually against small children.  They suggest that such was caused by the individuals having “repressed homosexuality” issues, and as such they may not be a threat to recidivate since they no longer “repress.”

Are you aware of any scientific research to back this up, or to refute this claim?  A case of mine is in trial this week and next, and the Assistant Attorney General handling this civil management the case is looking for some guidance.  He and I would appreciate any insight you could give in this matter.

P. E.
Dear Dr. E.:

There is probably little I can tell you that you are not likely to already know:

There is no evidence that pedophilia can be caused by repressed homosexuality.  Although I occasionally encounter professionals who espouse that or similar concepts, the idea has not received support from contemporary research.

The literature in risk prediction has come a long way, with many sizeable studies conducted regarding what variables best predict which sex offenders are the most likely to commit new offenses after their re-integration into society. The two largest meta-analyses of the variables that predict risk are by Karl Hanson in Canada (Hanson & Bussière, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005). The best predictors of recidivism are laboratory test results (i.e., phallometry or penile plethysmography) that indicate pedophilia and symptoms of psychopathy or Anti-Social Personality Disorder. The research literature does not include repressed homosexuality as a significant predictor of recidivism.  (Moreover, there are experts who question whether “repressed homosexuality” exists as a meaningful concept at all.)

The current generation of instruments for risk prediction are empirically derived. The actuarial instruments, such as the Static-99, SORAG, RRASOR, have become the standard, and none contains any mention of repressed homosexuality or similar concept.

I must point out, of course, that no one can make predictions with 100% accuracy and that there necessarily remain variables still unknown to science.  To the extent that the idea has been put to any test, however, there is no significant evidence to support the notion that repressed homosexuality (or its resolution) can impact the probability of committing new sexual offenses against children.

Hanson, R. K., & Bussière, M. T. (1998). Predicting relapse: A meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 348–362.

Hanson, R. K., & Morton-Bourgon, K. E. (2005). The characteristics of persistent sexual offenders: A meta-analysis of recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 1154–1163.