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By on November 25, 2009

Theory of the Problem: Sexually Coercive Behavior in Male Youth

To prevent sexual violence, we need to understand both factors that contribute to the problem; and develop a theory on how our efforts can prevent it. Donna Garske of Transforming Communities talks about having a “Theory of the Problem” and a “Theory of Change.”

I find this to be a very helpful set of concepts.  While each of these theories need to compliment each other, they are not the same.  For example, it is not reasonable to expect that understanding why rape happens (theory of the problem) is sufficient to change behavior.  What we have learned from behavior theory is that more than information is necessary to change someone’s behavior.

First, how do we develop our theory of the problem? I thought about this when I saw the first line of the abstract of the new article Sexually Coercive Behavior in Male Youth: Population Survey of General and Specific Risk Factors:Little is known about risk/protective factors for sexually coercive behavior in general population youth.”

If we want to prevent perpetration of sexual violence, we need to draw on lessons learned on why people rape.  Some people look at David Lisak’s work on the “Undetected Rapist.”  Recently VAWnet put out a Applied Research brief on Using Rapist Risk Factors to Set an Agenda for Rape Prevention I am part of a newly developed Prevention Committee of the Association for the Treatment of Sex Offenders (ATSA) to bridge the work of sex offender management and prevention.

Lets get a better understanding of what we are trying to prevent. Then we have to develop our “theory of change” that fits.

Here is the full abstract and a link to the article on the journal’s web site.

Sexually Coercive Behavior in Male Youth: Population Survey of General and Specific Risk Factors.

Kjellgren C, Priebe G, Svedin CG, Langstrom N. Archives of Sexual Behavior 2009; ePublished November 4, 2009

(Copyright © 2009, Springer Science+Business Media)

Little is known about risk/protective factors for sexually coercive behavior in general population youth. We used a Swedish school-based population survey of sexual attitudes and experiences (response rate 77%) and investigated literature-based variables across sexually coercive (SEX), non-sexual conduct problem (CP), and normal control (NC) participants to identify general and specific risk/protective factors for sexual coercion. Among 1,933 male youth, 101 (5.2%) reported sexual coercion (ever talked or forced somebody into genital, oral, or anal sex) (SEX), 132 (6.8%) were classified as CP, and the remaining 1,700 (87.9%) as NC. Of 29 tested variables, 25 were more common in both SEX and CP compared to NC youth, including minority ethnicity, separated parents, vocational study program, risk-taking, aggressiveness, depressive symptoms, substance abuse, sexual victimization, extensive sexual experiences, and sexual preoccupation. When compared to CP youth only, SEX youth more often followed academic study programs, used less drugs and were less risk-taking. Further, SEX more frequently than CP youth reported gender stereotypic and pro-rape attitudes, sexual preoccupation, prostitution, and friends using violent porn. Finally, in a multivariate logistic regression, academic study program, pro-rape attitudes, sexual preoccupation, and less risk-taking independently remained more strongly associated with SEX compared to CP offending. In conclusion, several sociodemographic, family, and individual risk/protective factors were common to non-sexual and sexually coercive antisocial behavior in late adolescence. However, pro-rape cognitions, and sexual preoccupation, were sexuality-related, specific risk factors. The findings could inform preventive efforts and the assessment and treatment of sexually coercive male youth.

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