Child Pornography Possessors and Child Contact Sex Offenders: A Multilevel Comparison of Demographic Characteristics and Rates of Recidivism

Sex Abuse. 2015 Oct;27(5):460-78. doi: 10.1177/1079063214521469. Epub 2014 Feb 19.


Considerable debate surrounds the topic of whether possessing or distributing online images of child pornography (CP) represents a new type of crime perpetrated by conventional sex offenders (e.g., child contact [CC] sex offenders), or whether individuals who commit these crimes differ from contact sex offenders in meaningful ways. The current study compares groups of Internet (CP) and CC sexual offenders, with each group's sexual offending history exclusively confined to its offense category. T tests were used to conduct bivariate comparisons of group demographics and criminal histories. Rates of recidivism were examined using survival curves and Cox proportional hazard regression models. Results showed significant differences on demographic and criminal history variables, with CP offenders demonstrating a lower frequency of prior criminal offending and substance abuse, and higher rates of pre-incarceration employment and level of education. Rates of recidivism were significantly different between the two groups, with CP offenders showing lower rates of re-offense for most measures of recidivism. When controlling for background characteristics and the timing of the event, CC offenders were at much greater risk for having an arrest for a new crime or a non-sexual violent crime than CP offenders. Treatment and policy implications are discussed, along with suggestions for future research.

Keywords: child molestation; child pornography; recidivism; survival analysis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / prevention & control
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Criminals / statistics & numerical data
  • Dangerous Behavior*
  • Erotica*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Sex Offenses / prevention & control
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data*