Regardless of the high pervasiveness rate of psychological wellness issues among pedophiles, little is thought about the longitudinal course and covariates or their emotional well-being side effects, particularly the impact of the stigma encompassing the disorder. The current study aimed: (1) to inspect changes in pedophiles’ mental health symptoms over time, (2) recognize individual variables related with their mental health symptoms and view of the stigma, and (3) to examine the steady impact of perceptions of the stigma on mental health symptoms.
The lives of people with pedophilia are often plagued with mental illness. Although research has begun to understand the impact of pedophilia, it has only recently begun to explain stigma’s role in pedophiles’ mental health. To understand this, researchers have been conducting experiments focusing on the stigma surrounding pedophilia to determine the detriment to their psycho-hygiene. These experiments often take the form of questionnaire assessments, which are given to the pedophiles themselves (Cohen et al., 2019; Grady et al., 2018; Jahnke et al. 2015; Wagner et al., 2016)
In terms of scientific findings, the patterns that are emerging in research are all quite similar. The research regarding stigma’s effect on pedophiles’ mental health has findings that seem to be impacted by both the public and medical professionals. The results from Cohen et al. (2019) show that suicidal ideation was present in pedophiles, regardless of their sexual history or criminal background, linking a strong relationship between suicidal ideation and stigma. Additionally, the results projected that these participants who idealize suicide had a history of receiving some sort of mental health help from medical professionals, meaning the stigma believed by the staff ultimately caused pedophiles mental health to decline as insufficient help was provided. Grady, Levenson, Mesias, Kaavanagh, and Charles (2018) found in their research that experience and/or fear of stigma was the prominent theme that prevented them from seeking mental health treatment.
They also felt shame and fear of judgment from their communities, making them anxious about possible reporting. Jahnke, Schmidt, Geradt, and Hoyer (2015) focused on how pedophiles perceive and react to the stigma against them. It was found that pedophiles perceived social distance and had a fear of discovery, even if their social distance was much lower. The study showed that pedophiles tend to overestimate the level of discrimination they face, which ultimately leads to self-persecution. Finally, Wagner, Beier, Hoyhe, and Scherner (2016) showed that when it came to stigma management strategies, secrecy was associated with a variety of problem, indirect disclosure was strong with negative consequences, and those who directly disclosed had an association with positive consequences.
The consensus that seems to be developing based on the scientific findings in these studies is that the stigmatized attitudes of the general public and medical professionals cause pedophiles to carry these beliefs about themselves, and negatively affects the mental health of pedophiles. These attitudes based on stigma by the public inherently cause pedophiles to be afraid and isolated, which causes them to refuse to seek help and for their problems to overgrow. Research shows neglect can be dangerous, and it can be stopped if stigma is removed.
Due to the long-standing taboo surround pedophilia, there is not a lot of researchers who reach out and help pedophiles. Many are not daring enough to face the public backlash they may receive from this or are unable to due to the lack of funding by institutions, as they are unwilling to aid this cause. Though a few researchers exist who disregarded or overcame these obstacles, they alone do not have the ability to answer all the questions surrounding the issue. The amount of stigma and its negative impact on pedophilic individuals has been comprehensively documented for western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic, or W.E.I.R.D societies (Cohen et al., 2019; Jahnke, Imhoff, & Hoyer, 2014). The examination of other non-western countries’ view on pedophilia still needs to be answered. In order to fully understand the effects of stigma on mental health, researchers need to see if their findings are as representative of the species around the world. There is a large variation across human populations; cultures in other countries are different and can either aggravate or alleviate the mental health of pedophiles. Researchers need to acknowledge the existence of stigma towards pedophiles in other countries, as well as recognizing their mental health. With this, researchers can answer if stigma is the root of the problem, or if it is the attitudes of those who reside where the studies took place that is the cause of pedophile’s mental health.
The inquiry of pedophilia within women is a talking point that has yet to be fully enveloped. Pedophilia appears to be more prominent in men, but this may be a false accusation that people believe. Women pedophiles are not as active within studies or as sought out by researchers, causing them to be disassociated with pedophilia. Women need to be studied to determine the holistic overview of stigma on the mental health of the pedophilia population.
The two preceding queries ultimately lead to the most important question, how does stigma affect the mental health of pedophiles? Achieving the answer to this question from not only different countries, but also from women will create a bigger sample size, which can give researchers a better understanding. To answer this question, researchers must obtain the biggest sample size they are able to because the quantitative results will allow it to be more thorough and representative. Large sample sizes give more reliable results with greater precision, which will primarily eliminate bias. Researchers should also try to conduct more research offline as it can help avoid ambiguity and get qualitative answers. Qualitative research provides an in-depth understanding of the way people come to behave in the way they do. Conduction of a longitudinal study may also prove beneficial because it can follow pedophiles and how their mental health has been affected by stigma over time, which can later help predict mental health decline in other pedophiles.
Information will be acquired from a large sample of pedophilic individuals, from a range if ages, that will be recruited from online message boards surrounding the paraphilia of pedophilia. Data will be accumulated at months 2, 4, and 6 after their initial participation in the study. The participants socio-demographic, clinical and criminological background will be gathered. The participants’ perceptions of the stigma surrounding them and their mental health symptoms will be assessed through self-reporting assessments, with linear and logistic regressions being used to analyze the data, along with assessments for a contrast between means.
Participants will include pedophilic-individual volunteers, ideally 50 percent females, 50 percent males, recruited from online pedophilia message boards. The sample will have a diverse range of race and nationality, with other socio-demographics being taken such as age, gender, language and socioeconomic statuses such as income, and education. Preferably, the education levels of the participants will be ranged from high-school education to graduate education. Clinical and criminological variables (if present), will be collected also to determine the history of drug use and received mental health treatment prior to their participation in the study.
Mental health symptoms. At every assessment wave, mental health issues will be surveyed with the Brief Symptom Inventory. This assessment is a self-report inventory consisting of 53 mental health symptoms, and the participants rate the symptoms on a Likert scale the degree to which they had been bothered by various symptom in the previous week. The scale is five-points, ranging from 0 = not at all to 4 = extremely, with nine subscales that are designed to relate to individual symptom groupings: somatization, obsessive-compulsive, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anxiety, hostility, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation, and psychoticism (Derogatis, 1993). The BSI inventory will likewise give a complete score indicating the overall dimension of psychological distress by using the Global Severity Index, which is the score that is a mean of the subscales.
Perceptions of the stigma. Perceptions of the stigma will be measured with the Internal Consistency of the Inventory of Stigma Experiences. This instrument includes 10 items in which pedophiles indicate on a five-point Likert scale, ranging from 0 = never to 4 = always, the extent to which they agreed with statements about the stigma against them (Stuart, Koller, & Milev, 2008).
Other covariates. The clinical, criminological, and socio-demographic characteristics of the pedophiles will be investigated. These characteristics included: age (continuous), gender (0 = male, 1 = female), race (categorical; White, Asian, Black, etc.), language (categorical; English, Spanish, Chinese, etc.), income (continuous), years of education (continuous), previous/current drug use (0 = no, 1 = yes), history of mental health treatment (0 = no, 1 = yes), and history of sexual offense (0 = no, 1 = yes).
Data will be gathered during the second, fourth, and sixth month after the pedophiles’ initial participation in the study. All pedophiles who have an account on online pedophilia message boards will be welcome to take part in the investigation. Individuals on the websites will be educated about the investigation, its objectives, that participation will be voluntary, and that data will remain confidential. If the participants wish to participate, they will be asked to report to a disclosed location and meet with a designated researcher for the initial survey. Afterward, the participants will fill out questionnaires on mental health symptoms and perceptions of the stigma in a private room. In following assessments, participants will be able to fill out the surveys at their homes and returned them through the mail in a sealed envelope.
The examination will join various sources of information. Data on the socio-demographic and clinical attributes will depend on the participants’ self-reports. Criminological information will be recovered from the participants’ local law enforcement facility.
To start, analysis of mental health symptoms overall changes over time will be done by pooled linear regression analyses. These regressions will be done on the BSI subscale as well as the complete GSI score in relation to the month of the run of the experiment (code: 2, 4, and 6). Further analysis for this would have to be determined after the experiment, as additional corrections may have to be made due to relationships between individual errors. These additional analyses will be to identify participants with increased or decreased mental health symptoms over the span of the experiment, as there could be outliers that far skew the data.
Once the linear regressions are complete and identification/removal of outliers, logistic regressions will be performed to predict how the pedophiles’ mental health will change over time. After this, in order to distinguish elements related with mental health symptoms and the perceptions of stigma, another regression will be conducted, which will regress the BSI and the CISE total scores to consider the variation across individuals.
Lastly, in order to test the gradual impact of perceptions of the stigma on mental health symptoms, the CISE total score will be added to the factors of the regression model to predict the mental health symptoms the pedophiles will face.
After analyzing the data found from the research, the GSI will be converted to a t-score since we do not know the true population of pedophiles. This will then be converted into a p-value, which can be compared to the universal alpha-level of 0.05. This study hopes to find that the p-value is less than the alpha value, so the null hypothesis can be rejected. The rejection of the null hypothesis will provide support that the mental health symptoms of pedophiles increase over time and the perceptions of the stigma against them influences this.
Though the proposed study will resolve many previous research problems concerning this topic, the experiment has potential limitations that can affect the estimates of the proposed results. For instance, this study aims to have a large number of participants with ranging socio-demographics; however; it is unlikely to achieve individuals who fit the depiction of the theoretical participants. This is an issue as large sample sizes and socio-demographics allow easier, more accurate, generalization to the public.
Even if this study contains the ideal participants, it is designed to be a longitudinal study. The restriction with this is that longitudinal studies have a common occurrence of people withdrawing from the study over time, so the final sample group may no longer reflect the original representative sample.
The CISE is also an issue for this study as reliability and validity are not inherent characteristics of this inventory. This assessment was created with the intention to be applicable to all participants being assessed regardless of their individual characteristics and background, making it difficult to declare it reliable or valid.
Finally, the logistic regressions that will be performed to predict how the pedophiles’ mental health will change over time may be inaccurate. Though the regression mimics the previous pattern of the first 6 months of the study, there are a lot of factors that can act as confounding variables and change the projected outcome.
This proposed study will contribute to the current knowledge of mental health symptoms among individuals with pedophilia. Previous studies investigating the covariates of the perceptions of the stigma and the influence of stigma on the mental health of pedophiles lack. This study will examine the longitudinal course of the development and covariate of these symptoms over a period of time, which has not been accomplished in previous research. This study will hopefully show that pedophiles have a higher need for mental health support than the general population. The study will also potentially report elevated levels of mental health symptoms over the course of the study, with respect to the BSI and its subscales. This means that pedophiles’ the mental health symptoms will increase over time. The inventory assessments may find that clinical and criminological variables could be risk factors for the mental health of pedophiles. Though these may be found as factors, the research hopes to find that the perception of the stigma against them is the strongest prediction of their mental stability.