Clerical training fostered a predisposition to perpetrate child sexual abuse, study shows

February 18, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Clerical training fostered a predisposition to perpetrate child sexual abuse, study shows

The emotional and issues which likely predisposed some men who entered the seminary in Ireland to perpetrate were exacerbated by the clerical training and culture they experienced, according to study findings published in the International Journal of & Neglect.

The research highlights that the prohibition of friendship, and the promotion of sexuality as sinful served to compound and amplify psychological conflicts that had developed during the offender's early life.

"What our research shows is a culture within the training of Irish Catholic priests that militated against the integration of emotional and sexual development and hindered psychological maturation, resulting in some men with very serious intimacy and relationship difficulties," says the first author of the report, Dr Paul D'Alton, UCD School of Psychology, University College Dublin, and St Vincent's University Hospital.

The study involved nine clergy who had perpetrated child and were attending professional psychotherapy. The interview schedules with the offenders were taken from a thematic analysis of a random selection of 'life stories' (autobiographical accounts of participants' life histories completed as part of group therapy).

All of the participants displayed significant difficulties forming friendships and close relationships, a condition common among perpetrators of child sexual abuse.

"What appears among our study participants, and therefore is likely for other clerical offenders, is the experience of a culture and system that failed to re-balance or correct any early problems they may have had but rather acted to compound them through the strict imposition of certain beliefs and ideology," adds Dr D'Alton.

The findings published in The International Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect point to a prevailing ideology that compounded psychosexual and psychosocial vulnerabilities during the participants' clerical training, and thus fostered any predisposition to perpetrate sexual abuse.

According to Dr D'Alton, the findings support other studies suggesting several unique factors associated with sexual abuse within the clerical environment. Thus a multifactoral model of the development child sex offenders in indicated.

The study shows a failure of the culture and practices within clerical training to re-balance or resolve any psychological conflicts that had already developed during the offender's early life.

Explore further: The perpetrator in one-quarter of child sexual abuse cases is a stranger

Related Stories

The perpetrator in one-quarter of child sexual abuse cases is a stranger

October 22, 2012
Child sexual abuse is committed by strangers more than one-quarter of the time. Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden reviewed the records of 196 men who had been convicted of child sexual abuse ...

Researchers find link between childhood abuse and age at menarche

July 27, 2012
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found an association between childhood physical and sexual abuse and age at menarche. The findings are published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Recommended for you

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 18, 2013
In other words, the motivation for entering the clergy remains unaddressed. Obviously, better screening of those who intend to enter the priesthood or sisterhood stands foremost in the effort to restore the church's integrity. Historically speaking, the church has routinely sheltered those who might have been persecuted, even prosecuted, for being "different". Many sons and daughters from families with means were shuttled off "to answer their calling", along with a monetary gift to the abbot or mother superior. About 10% of people are born without clearly identifiable gender characteristics. Acceptance of "difference" in modern society can only enhance the quality of clergy over the long term, as there will be no reason but the genuine one to enter into the service of God.
not rated yet Feb 27, 2013
Abel Screening, Inc. develops psychological tests to protect children from sexual abuse. The Diana Screen® is used by religious & secular organizations to reduce the risk of placing men and women who present sexual risks to children and teenagers into positions of trust. The Abel Assessment for sexual interest-3™ (AASI-3) is used by clinicians to objectively measure a client's sexual interests and obtain information regarding involvement in a number of abusive or problematic sexual behaviors.
not rated yet Feb 28, 2013
Obviously these screening methods are sorely lacking in effectiveness, or they are simply not being used. Furthermore, people are very prepared to jump on the bandwagon to vilify the clergy, whereas in reality, the behavior in question is a fundamental one common to most of the population. It's well known that sexual abuse begins in the home. Sexual mores and standards as practiced by the public in private can be quite disturbing, and yet justified, because those behaviors are being practiced in the family.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.