Objective: Emotional congruence with children is an exaggerated affective and cognitive affiliation with children that is posited to be involved in the initiation and maintenance of sexual offending against children. The current meta-analysis examined the relationship between emotional congruence with children and sexual offending against children, sexual recidivism, and the impact of sexual offender treatment. Method: A systematic literature review of online academic databases, conference proceedings, governmental agency websites, and article, book chapter, and book reference lists was performed. Thirty studies on emotional congruence with children in sexual offenders against children (SOC) were included in a random-effects meta- analysis. Results: Extrafamilial SOC – especially those with male victims – evidenced higher emotional congruence with children than most non-SOC comparison groups and intrafamilial SOC. In contrast, intrafamilial SOC evidenced less emotional congruence with children than many of the non-SOC comparison groups. Higher levels of emotional congruence with children were associated with moderately higher rates of sexual recidivism. The association between emotional congruence with children and sexual recidivism was significantly stronger in extrafamilial SOC samples (d = 0.58, 95% CI [0.31, 0.85]) compared to intrafamilial SOC samples (d = -0.15, 95% CI [-0.58, 0.27]). Similarly, emotional congruence with children showed a significant reduction from pre- to post-treatment for extrafamilial SOC (d = 0.41, 95% CI [0.33, 0.85]), but not for intrafamilial SOC (d = 0.06, 95% CI [-0.10, 0.22]). Conclusions: Emotional congruence with children is a characteristic of extrafamilial SOC, is moderately predictive of sexual recidivism, and is potentially amenable through treatment efforts.
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