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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Jun;989:59-71; discussion 144-53.

The development of sexual aggression through the life span: the effect of age on sexual arousal and recidivism among sex offenders.

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Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M6J 1H4.


There is a strong belief in the field that sexual aggression persists unabated into old age. If libido is one of the important determinants of sexual aggression, as has been theorized, and if libido decreases with aging, then it follows that sexual aggression should show similar aging effects. The present study examines the effects of age on sexual arousal and sexual recidivism in sex offenders. In the first study, 1431 sex offenders' erectile responses were measured using volumetric phallometry during presentations of visual and auditory depictions of prepubescent, pubescent, and adult males and females. The maximum degree of arousal was plotted over the age of the offender at the time of the test. Age was a powerful determinant of sexual arousal and a line-of-best-fit indicated that arousal decreased as a reciprocal of the age-at-test. In the second study, 468 sex offenders released into the community were followed for an average period of over five years. The effects of age-at-release were examined using Kaplan-Meier survival curves plotted for subjects in different age-at-release cohorts. Results indicated that offenders released at an older age were less likely to recommit sexual offenses and that sexual recidivism decreased as a linear function of age-at-release. Age-related decreases were confirmed while controlling for other risk factors using Cox regression analysis. The implications of reductions in sexual aggression with age are discussed in relation to our understanding of the etiology of sexual aggression and our use of actuarial risk assessments.

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