Crossover and stability of victim type in child molesters


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Michael Proeve, School of Psychology, Social Work, and Social Policy, University of South Australia, City East Campus, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia (e-mail:


Purpose. This study examined the degree to which child sex offenders demonstrated crossover in victim choice, as defined by age, gender, and relationship to the offender. It also aimed to explore the direction of the shift in victim type with repeated offending within each of the three domains and to identify variables predictive of crossover behaviour.

Method. The sample comprised 128 adult male child sexual offenders. All had offended against multiple victims and were attending a community-based assessment and treatment service for sexual offenders at the time of data collection. Variables were gathered, coded, and de-identified from a manual search through clinical casenotes, from client assessment reports as well as from supplementary information consisting of sentencing remarks or other professional reports.

Results. More than half of the sample (63.3%, N = 81) demonstrated crossover in victim type across at least one domain. Crossover was 48.0% (N = 59) in the age domain, 22.0% (N = 28) in the gender domain, and 25.8% (N = 33) in the relationship to victim domain. Crossover offending was associated with number of victims but unrelated to frequency of offending or to recidivism risk as assessed by a standard risk assessment instrument. Transitional matrices showed general stability in victim type across offences within the gender and relationship domains, but lower stability within the age domain.

Conclusions. Crossover offending behaviour was found to be frequent in the age domain, but the high frequency of crossover in this domain may be artifactual. Crossover offending was less frequent in the gender and relationship domains, but should be taken into account in risk assessment. Victim type shows stability across multiple offences in the gender and relationship to victim domains. Analysis of victim type across multiple offences should be replicated under conditions where disclosure of offending is maximized.