The second issue of B4QR, our quarterly review publication, has just been released and is available here.
This issue includes short critical summaries of eight studies published between December 2020 and March 2021. Many articles published in this time period took on the issue of stigma around attraction to minors and efforts to reduce it, while others included research on supportive services for minor-attracted people and attempts to understand attraction to minors within the field of neuroscience.
Thank you to our committee members for this issue, Harriet Dymond, Sarah Moss and Gary Parmlee, and to Kailey Roche for agreeing to be the our next featured young scholar.
Further issues and updates about B4QR will continue to be available on this site. We hope you enjoy, and find the journal informative and helpful!
One year ago, in spring 2020, the novel coronavirus became truly recognizable as a global pandemic. The first deaths outside of China, including in Europe and the United States, were reported in February, and by the end of March, widespread lockdowns had brought daily life to a halt. The direct impact of the disease over the last twelve months has been both immense and tragic, with over 2.5 million recorded deaths worldwide. But, although it is widely discussed, the mental health impact of the pandemic is harder to measure.
We do know that the pandemic has decreased measures of mental health around the world. The B4U-ACT Signatory and Referral Program has also seen a sizable increase in requests for mental health care during this time. No studies have yet attempted to document the effects of the pandemic specifically on minor-attracted people. So, for context on how MAPs specifically may be impacted, we reached out both to therapists in the program and to minor-attracted people in various communities, including B4U-ACT’s own peer support group. The responses show the myriad of ways in which a singularly isolating year has impacted a uniquely demonized group of people.
The therapists who responded to our question about what had changed during the past year gave mixed answers. While none reported having any MAP clients who indicated that they were seeking therapy as a direct result of the pandemic, there were other indicators of the effect it has had.
Brian Finnerty (LPC), one of the therapists to whom B4U-ACT refers MAPs, has started working with multiple new clients since the pandemic began. “Of the six MAPs on my caseload right now, four of them began their work with me during COVID,” Finnerty told B4U-ACT. “No one has explicitly stated that COVID had any link to their decision to seek therapy. But I suppose having extra time at home and being exposed to additional stressors could have been a motivating factor in seeking out therapy.”
To understand the impact the pandemic has had, it’s first important to understand that minor-attracted people reach out to B4U-ACT’s referral service for a variety of reasons. Some may be dealing with stigma and minority stress related to their sexuality, while others may have general mental health concerns (e.g., anxiety, stress, relationship problems, substance abuse) for which they feel uncomfortable seeing a therapist who may be hostile to their sexual identity, distress over their sexual attractions directly, or a combination of these and other issues.
Pandemic related stressors can intensify any of these concerns, but also can’t be considered the only factor, even as requests for support increase. For example, Sona Nast (MSSW, LCSW, LSOTP), another therapist to whom B4U-ACT refers MAPs, noted of one client that while “these stressors have been topics of discussion during treatment, most of the issues he is working on have been long-standing and unrelated to the pandemic.”
Without dedicated studies, it’s not yet possible to measure whether mental health has been significantly more affected for MAPs than for other groups, or whether MAPs have been affected in a substantially different way. But it has become increasingly evident throughout the pandemic that marginalized groups have faced a disproportionate amount of its harms.
Researchpoints to social support networks as a protective factor against adverse mental health effects. In addition, a recent study in Journal of Homosexuality identified gender and sexual minorities (although attraction to minors was not explicitly mentioned) as disproportionately more affected during this time by symptoms of anxiety and depression, and having lower perceived social support. With this in mind, it’s reasonable to consider that MAPs might have been more susceptible to the stresses of a pandemic that has left all of us more fatigued and lonely.
Research on minor-attracted people elucidates how mental health is greatly impacted by the stigma surrounding their attractions. Social withdrawal and avoidance are more common among MAPs as a result. B4U-ACT’s Summer 2011 survey of MAPs found that over half of those who had seen a mental health professional mentioned dealing with society’s negative response to their attraction as part of their goals. The need for MAPs to keep their attractions secret, and fear of discovery, can be debilitating to networks of social support, and result in increased levels of loneliness and isolation.
“I think COVID has affected us all,” Brain Finnerty reflected, “but I suspect that communities which already tend to be more isolated have probably struggled a bit more.”
Michael Harris, director of B4U-ACT’s Signatory and Referral Program, brought up another subgroup that might be particularly affected. “We have certainly seen an increase in requests during the pandemic,” Harris reported, “and an alarming number of them have come from minors themselves… In recent months we have heard from MAPs as young as 12 who are seeking help.”
Research indicates that minor-attracted people usually begin to realize that their sexuality is different from their peers’ in late childhood or adolescence, and youths beginning to realize they are attracted to younger children are especially at risk when it comes to adverse mental health outcomes, including suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Given findings that children and adolescents in general have been at higher risk of depression and anxiety symptoms during the pandemic, the need to reach these people with care has never been greater.
While the B4U-ACT Signatory and Referral Program represents a venue through which this need can be met, more efforts are needed. “Although our network of therapists is ever expanding,” Michael Harris explained, “we still do not have representation in all the areas of the country, or for that matter the world, where MAPs seek assistance, and so we are constantly seeking additional therapists.”
The backbone of the Signatory and Referral Program is a confidential list of therapists who are willing to provide compassionate, affirming therapy for MAPs that meets their needs. We do not publicly disclose any therapist’s presence on the list without their explicit permission. Instead, MAPs seeking therapy are sent names and contact information from professionals on the list who can practice (either face-to-face or telemedically) in their area. Therapists who join the list are also asked to reflect the goals and values in our Principles and Perspectives of Practice and our pamphlet Psychotherapy for the Minor-Attracted Person, which is crucial in assuring that the MAPs we refer receive compassionate therapy focused on their well-being.
While there are other therapist lists available to MAPs, our signatory based program, which affirms to MAPs that they will be treated in line with best practices, with compassion and responsively to their needs, is unique. Our 2011 survey found that over half of surveyed MAPs had wanted to see a mental health professional at some point in time, but did not do so, mostly due to fear of a negative reaction from the professional, or fear of being reported to law enforcement, family, employer, or community.
Signatories to the referral list are addressing these concerns by making their services available to MAPs who may not otherwise feel safe seeking support. As we all try to move through this difficult time, B4U-ACT is committed to expanding and improving our resources for MAPs to meet the growing need. This includes the effort to expand our list of participating therapists in the referral program, as well as broadening to include professionals in a larger number of geographical areas.
Minor-attracted people who are struggling and considering professional mental health support are encouraged to contact B4U-ACT via email at email@example.com. Mental health professionals wishing to accept MAP clients are encouraged to contact the Signatory and Referral Program through Michael Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
B4U-ACT’s Spring 2021 Newsletter is out now! Read about how our therapist referral program has been affected by COVID-19, what it takes to be a mental health provider for MAPs, and recent news from our organization!
B4U-ACT is collaborating with Mary Morris, a student researcher at Adler University, to support a study on the development and understanding of sexual identities of minor-attracted people. English-speaking minor-attracted people are invited to participate in an audio-only interview on this topic.
The following is a message from the researcher with more information about the study:
My name as Mary Morris and I am a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Adler University, in Vancouver, Canada. As part of my degree, I am studying the way that minor-attracted persons develop and understand their sexual identity. I am also looking at the emotional side of that, especially emotions like shame, guilt, and pride. I hope that my research will help mental health professionals support MAPs better. My research is supervised by Dr. Michael Sheppard.
I am looking for participants for this study.
You are able to participate in the study if:
• You are 19 or older
• You experience sexual and/or romantic attraction to minors (minors are children who haven’t gone through puberty, or teens who are going through puberty)
• You are comfortable speaking and reading English
• You want to talk about your sexual identity, how you feel about it now, and how you have felt about it in the past
• You have two hours to talk to me about your experiences
• You are comfortable using Zoom (it will be audio-only)
You should not participate in this study if:
• You know the student researcher
• You currently experience severe distress related to your minor attraction and think that talking to me would make it worse (e.g., talking about minor attraction with me would move you from a 6/10 level of distress to an 8/10 level of distress).
Mary Morris Student Researcher, Doctor of Clinical Psychology Program Adler University (Vancouver Campus) Email : email@example.com
Further information and email links are available in the poster below: (Click to view as pdf)
Update 9/10/2021: As of today, both surveys have officially closed. Thank you to all who participated.
Original Post, 3/16/2021:
People self-identifying as minor-attracted persons are being asked to participate in research being conducted by Dr. Rebecca Lievesley and Dr. Craig Harper at Nottingham Trent University, with consultation from B4U-ACT. The research includes two separate surveys, which are described in greater detail below.
Here is a message from Dr. Lievesley, the principal investigator for this research, with further information:
I’m Rebecca, a senior lecturer and researcher at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. My colleague, Craig Harper, and I are currently recruiting participants for two surveys – one looking at self management of sexual attraction, and the second looking at help seeking and disclosure. Further details and the links are below.
Survey 1 overview: This anonymous survey is looking at self-management of attraction. It asks questions about your sexual attractions, behaviours and wellbeing. It does not ask for any identifiable information and does not record IP addresses so the responses cannot be traced back to you. It will take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. The link to the survey is below – the first page provides full information about the study and then you can choose whether or not to take part. https://ntupsychology.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dhiF46JW2aa7roy
Survey 2 overview: This anonymous survey is looking at disclosure and help seeking. It asks questions about your sexual attractions, and your experiences of disclosing your sexual attraction to others and seeking any support related to your attraction, as well as questions around wellbeing. It does not ask for any identifiable information and does not record IP addresses so the responses cannot be traced back to you. It will take approximately 10-20 minutes to complete. The link to the survey is below – the first page provides full information about the study and then you can choose whether or not to take part. https://ntupsychology.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0oAdI4gB98MdJwW
B4U-ACT is collaborating with researchers at the University of Houston-Victoria to support a study on experiences of accessing professional support among MAPs. Minor-attracted people who have never engaged in illegal sexual activities involving minors are invited to participate via an anonymous audio-only interview.
Potential participants can reach the research team at the following email address: Nopresearch@uhv.edu
Here is additional information from the research team:
Research project title: Barriers and facilitators in accessing professional support for MAPs who have not engaged in illegal sexual activities involving minors
Research team University of Houston Victoria: Dr Rebecca Heron, Dr Karen Parsonson & Dr Sara Zedaker, Brittany Proctor
The aim of this research is to explore MAPs’ (minor attracted persons) experiences of accessing professional support. Our research focuses on MAPs who have never engaged in illegal sexual activities involving minors. We aim to find out more about the barriers and facilitators which these MAPs experience and perceive when accessing support. As a result of this research, we hope to improve other MAP’s experiences of accessing professional support, and to also educate professionals on how they can make this process easier.
You are invited to participate in this research study as you have identified as a member of this support group and are over the age of 18. In participating in this research, you agree to an interview, whereby you will be asked questions about your experiences/perceptions of finding and accessing professional support, and even if you have not, you are still invited to take part.
This interview will last for around one hour and will be held on skype via audio so your identity will not be revealed. Participants will also be encouraged to use a false name, in order to further conceal their identity. Interviews will be transcribed (with no identifying information) and then the audio recordings destroyed. Data will be combined and the main themes from the interviews will be written up into a report, which will be shared publicly to inform other professionals on how to best support Minor Attracted Persons. However, within this report, no identifiable information will be shared and so all participants will remain completely anonymous.
We hope that this research will inform professionals on how they can better help and support Minor Attracted Persons. Although these interviews are strictly confidential, please note the researcher will have a duty to report any information to the appropriate authorities, if they believe that the participant is at risk or anyone else’s safety is at risk. For example, if a participant discloses an unreported criminal offence or their own mental health or safety being at risk.
Thank you so much for your consideration in participating in this research. This research is very important and we hope that this project will have a positive impact reducing stigma and helping Minor Attracted Person to come forward and access professional support when they need it.
To engage in this research or to find out more information, please email the following research address: Nopresearch@uhv.edu and interviews will be scheduled from there.
Here is additional information from the research team:
We are a team of researchers looking for Minor Attracted Persons (MAPs) with a sexual attraction to pre-pubescent and/or pubescent children to take part in a study on the use of online forums and online social support.
As a participant, you would be asked to complete an anonymous online survey (hosted by soscisurvey.de) that asks about your use of online forums specific to those with sexual attraction to children, and the impact of these forums on your wellbeing.
You will NOT be asked about past or present sexual behaviour.
You are eligible to participate if you are 18 years or older and if you identify as an MAP who is sexually attracted to pre-pubescent and/or pubescent children.
Participation is voluntary and would take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
This week, we were pleased to announce the first issue of the B4U-ACT Quarterly Review (B4QR), which is available here.
Four times per year, B4QR will publish short critical summaries of new research concerning minor-attracted people. The first issue covers eight studies published between October and December 2020, on topics ranging from the categorization of mental disorders, to the current state of research on child-like sex dolls, and much more.
We’d like to extend special thanks to our committee members for this inaugural issue, Kailey Roche, Maria Sklavou and Max Geradt, as well as to Maggie Ingram for agreeing to be the first honored young scholar for the “Meet the New Generation” section of the journal.
Further issues and updates about B4QR will continue to be available on this site.
We hope you enjoy, and find the journal informative and helpful!
Here is additional information from the research team.
Aim of the study: This survey examines therapy-related attitudes, thoughts, and experiences among men and women who are sexually attracted to children. We are aware that many people with a sexual interest in children do not seek or need professional help. Please note that you do not have to have been in therapy or to have had psychological symptoms requiring therapy in order to participate in this research.
Content: The questions will pertain to:
1) your sexual interests
2) attitudes towards therapy
3) prior treatment experiences (if applicable)
4) your preferred labels
5) mental health, stigma-related experiences, and well-being
We will also ask for your age, sex, gender identity, years of schooling, and previous convictions for sexual offenses. This is necessary to explore whether different groups of individuals in the population show different patterns of responses. Note that the survey does not contain questions about undetected sexual offenses.
Participant rights and anonymity: Your participation is voluntary and choosing not to take part will not have any consequences for you. The survey is completely anonymous. We will not ask for information that renders you personally identifiable, such as your name or your address. If you decide to take part, you are free to withdraw from the study at any time and without giving a reason. Please note that due to anonymization it is not possible to delete your data. All survey questions that you are not comfortable answering can be skipped, unless they refer to your gender or levels of sexual attraction to people from different age groups. Please do not share information that could make you identifiable or that could lead to criminal investigations. Note that we are required to act in accordance with the Finish law and may have to report information about undetected offenses to the police.
What happens to the information: The research team will analyze the data and publish the results in scientific outlets. The data will not be shared publicly, but may be made available to other researchers for the purpose of re-analysis upon request.
Benefits and risks of participation: The results will inform the development of an English-language website directed at people with sexual interests in children who are seeking information about mental health services. Some questions may cause discomfort or embarrassment because they pertain to your sexual preferences, mental health, and negative prior experiences in therapy (if applicable).
Data protection: Your privacy is protected by the server www.soscisurvey.de (no storage of IP addresses; use of SSL encryption with a signed certificate; server is secured against unauthorized access according to common standards; access to the server is SSH-encrypted; the questionnaires do not use any cookies). Should you have any further questions about data protection you may contact the Principal Investigator Sara Jahnke (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Data Protection Officer of the Åbo Akademi University (email@example.com).”
For some time now, we have had on our website a (non-comprehensive) summary of research concerning MAPs. The summary is divided into key topics, and each topic comes with a list of relevant publications. In its current form, however, the summary cannot easily be accessed in its entirety. One needs to navigate through multiple webpages to read the complete summary.
To make things easier, we created a PDF document that contains the same information, but in a more reader-friendly format.