Evaluating social skills of sexual aggressives

Judith V. Becker, Gene G. Abel, Edward B. Blanchard, William D. Murphy, Emily Coleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


A frequently overlooked element of any rapist or child molester's behavior is his social skills. We know that some sexual aggressives are very adept at interacting socially with a female, expressing themselves to others, requesting others to change their behavior, and accurately empathizing or appreciating the feeling states of others. On the other hand, some sexual aggressives are unable to maintain an adequate social interaction with an adult female, are unable to assert themselves appropriately with others, and, finally, some are cold and indifferent to others' feelings. In the past, these skills deficits have been viewed as characteristic of aggressives, but no formal means of evaluating or treating these deficits was available. In recent years behavioral approaches have begun to identify those behaviors that reflect good social skills. Concomitantly, skills training, a reeducative approach to teaching new skills, has been applied to a diverse group of clients, ranging from shy college students to inappropriately aggressive business executives. More recently these same skills assessment and training techniques have been applied to sexual deviates, and even more recently to sexual aggressives. The article by Becker, Abel, Blanchard, Murphy, and Coleman outlines the current means of assessing various social skills and applying skills training treatments to sexual aggressives when needed. A major finding was that treatment in one skills area does not generalize into other skills areas. That is, specific skills deficits must be resolved by treatment to improve that very deficit, since generalization from other skills areas is minimal. Finally, the interrelationship between various social skills deficits and rape behavior has to be worked out. Self-report measures confirm that in some rapists and child molesters, a close correlation exists between failures in the social skills area and increased urges to rape or molest, but this relationship is far from absolutely clear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-368
Number of pages12
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1978

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology(all)
  • Law


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