Theory and Treatment in Child Molestation

Richard I. Lanyon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


This paper reviews the state of current knowledge on child molestation, as distinguished from child rape. The traditional view that deviant sexual behavior is based in a character disorder is contrasted with the functional view, which makes no assumptions about etiology. Descriptive characteristics of child molesters are presented; in particular, preference molesters or pedophiles, who prefer children, are distinguished from situational molesters, whose basic preference is for adult partners, but who choose children as a function of circumstances. Structured assessment devices are needed for making this distinction and also for assessing molesters' potential for violence. From a clinical perspective, the family-systems approach is widely considered to be the treatment of choice for incestuous families. For eliminating the deviant behavior and impulses of offenders themselves, the empirical treatment literature shows that behavioral methods using covert sensitization have considerable promise, at least for situational molesters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-182
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of consulting and clinical psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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