Sexual murderers with adult or child victims: are they different?

Sex Abuse. 2010 Sep;22(3):290-314. doi: 10.1177/1079063210374346.


This study investigates characteristics differentiating sexually motivated murderers targeting child victims (CV; n = 35) from those with only adult victims (AV; n = 100). In the initial phase, psychiatric court reports were evaluated using standardized instruments (SCID-II, PCL-R, HCR-20, SVR-20, Static-99). In the second phase, data on duration of detention and reconviction rates were obtained from German federal criminal records. The CV group showed more often diagnostic criteria of pedophilia (43% vs. 4%) and less often alcohol abuse and drug dependency (31% vs. 55%), sexual dysfunctions (9% vs. 29%) and narcissistic personality disorder (0% vs. 13%). No significant differences were found regarding PCL-R and total risk assessment scores. Child victim perpetrators were more likely to have committed acts of sexual child abuse before the sexual homicide (46% vs. 16%) but were less likely to have committed rape or sexual assault (17% vs. 42%) or caused bodily injury (26% vs. 50%). The CV group was detained more frequently in forensic psychiatric hospitals (59% vs. 26%), but the two groups showed the same rates of release and reconviction for sexual (22% for both groups), nonsexual violent (CV 25% vs. AV 15%) and nonviolent offenses (CV 63% vs. AV 59%). Although well-known differences between nonhomicidal sexual child abusers and rapists were replicated in this study on sexual homicide perpetrators, the groups showed more similarities than differences. The high prevalence of violence and antisocial personality disorder in both groups seem to be important risk factors for committing a (sexual) homicide and might have outweighed other differences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Disorders, Psychotic / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Dangerous Behavior*
  • Forensic Psychiatry / methods
  • Germany
  • Homicide / psychology
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pedophilia
  • Psychometrics
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Young Adult