envelope Contact 

Abstract: A Theory of the Etiology of Child Molestation

This presentation will describe our recent attachment-based theory of the etiology of child molestation among offenders we describe as "affiliative". These child molesters are those who abuse children with whom they have a caregiving relationship (eg, parents, teachers, child care workers, clergy, sports coaches). These offenders account for the majority of child molesters (as many as 90% in some studies). We note that some of these men begin abusing when they are children, others begin when they are adolescents, some start abusing when they are young adults, or when they are middle-aged, while others do not begin to offend until they are  60 years of age or older. Our theory, therefore, integrates attachment issues with the vulnerabilities that occur at these various life-span developmental stages.


William L. Marshall is currently Director of Rockwood Psychological Services which provides treatment and research for various types of offenders, including sexual offenders. Rockwood provides these services in several Canadian Federal penitentiaries and in a centre for mentally disordered offenders as well as for juvenile offenders in various settings. Rockwood also provides therapist trainings in many countries. Bill has over 380 publications including 18 books, the latest of which (Marshall, Marshall, Serran & O'Brien 2011 "A strength-based approach to the treatment of sexual offenders" American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C.) won the "Book of the Year" award from the Society for Sex Therapy and Research. Bill is (or has been) on the Editorial Boards of 17 international journals and was in 2003 elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada for his contributions to science. In 2006, Bill was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of his contributions to making society safer both nationally and internationally. This is the highest honor a Canadian citizen can receive.