International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 20 Num. 2 - June 2020


Identifying Grooming of Children for Sexual Abuse: Gender Effects and Increased False Positives from Internet Information

Volume 20 Num. 2 - June 2020 - Pages 133-145


Bennett N , O’Donohue W


Some child sexual abusers engage in grooming prior to committing abuse. These tactics are methods that perpetrators use to gain access to their future victims and prepare them to be more compliant with the abuse. At times, grooming can be difficult to distinguish from typical adult-child interactions, and definitions of grooming have varied. The current study examined the extent to which participants could be trained to more accurately differentiate grooming behavior based upon participation in three types of training. One-hundred forty-seven undergraduate psychology students were invited to complete an online study. Participants were presented with hypothetical scenarios describing potential grooming behaviors and were asked to make judgments about the appropriateness of each behavior and whether or not it was indicative of grooming. Then participants were randomized to one of three training groups: 1) an experimental presentation which trained participants to focus on the behavior’s function and context; 2) a treatment-as-usual (TAU) presentation designed to mimic what a person would find out about grooming on the internet; and 3) a no treatment control. Afterward, participants were again asked to respond to hypothetical scenarios. The experimental and control groups performed equally well at post-test; however, the TAU group performed significantly worse (p= .003) suggesting a possible iatrogenic effect of information from the internet. In addition, there was a gender effect in which females outperformed males when labeling grooming behaviors (p= .027). There appears to be a need for more training about grooming behaviors and how to detect these.

How to cite this paper: Bennett N & O’Donohue W (2020). Identifying Grooming of Children for Sexual Abuse: Gender Effects and Increased False Positives from Internet Information. International Journal of Psychology & Psychological Therapy, 20, 2, 133-145.

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