Monday, February 20, 2017

Investing in people…….

This may not be the sexiest or most appealing sounding blog, but it reminds us of an important point that impacts all of us in our day to day working – workforce development. We would do well to remember that we work in a field were accountability is central, risk management is the name of the game and knowledge is power. We as professionals, practitioners and policy makers need to consistently keep abreast of developments in the field.

Kieran was sitting in a department meeting the other day were we discussed staff workload, programmes and recruitment for the 2017/18 academic year. The meeting focused round the undergraduate provision mainly but we did talk about postgrad teaching, PhD’s, Continual Professional Development (CPD), partnership working, student placements, match funded PhD’s and external training; it made me think about workforce development, which is something that myself and David find ourselves discussing a lot, and what this means for professionals, practitioners and the sexual abuse field in general.

Currently, there is not always enough money in organisations to send their staff to the conferences that they need to, or want to attend. This lack of investment in workforce development becomes more evident when discussing attendance at training events, short courses and qualifications. We remember when business and organisations would pay for members of staff to do MSc/MA or PhD’s as part of work force development; those days are mainly gone now.

Kieran organises a lot of sex offender conferences through the university, the majority of which have been internally funded or funded by research councils (ESRC & Leverhulme trust are two examples), and are in the process of starting to organise a conference that participants have to pay to attend; this has been an interesting experience. What will organisations pay for the training that their staff will be getting? What do they expect for their money? How much of a say do they want in the discussion around content and delivery? In the end they may not charge and find another way to fund it. That may be okay in this instance, but it begs the question of how do staff upskill, become more knowledgeable, and become aware of new research/development in the area. Further, whose responsibility is it to make this possible? This is particularly salient if you work in an area that requires you to have professional accreditation, which psychology, counselling, the legal system and social work (all areas that those that world in child protection and sex offender management tend to come from) do.

An alternative argument that we often hear to training and conferences is that professionals should read more journals, books and literature from their area of work. They should set aside time to develop their own skills base. While we don’t disagree with this, I think that there is more to this than meets the eye. Yes, professionals and practitioners can always read more but there are issues associated with this. For instance, (1) how do they access the articles as many professionals in the field do not have access to a vast array of journals; (2) what articles and authors should they read to diversify their knowledge base to make sure that they are not just reading the industry standard [regardless of how good they are]; (3) who pays for the licences, them or their employer?;  (4) how do they know what they should be reading, by who and when;  and (5) what are they reading for and how do they reintegrate it back into their own/their organisations practice. All of this gets compounded by the fact that most academics publish in pay for journals and books, open access publishing has not reached the mass market yet and those open access publications and not necessarily the ones that academics are encouraged to publish in. I am not criticising either model, both have their pros and cons (currently Kieran sits as an editorial board member and an Associate Editor on two journals with David being an editorial board member on three journals) but it does highlight the fact that professionals and non-academics may not have access to the papers that they need to upskill themselves.

We do not think that sending people on courses and paying for CPD is the only response available to the question of staff development, there are examples of good practice within professional organisations including, article clubs, research Q & A, partnership with academic institutions nearby, support in supervision and annual staff development rounds. What we are  saying is that maybe we need to think differently about how we invest in the development of professional staff in the field so that they have access to resources, training and discussion; so that they can be as up to date and as able to help their clients as possible.

Kieran McCartan, PhD, & David Prescott, LISCW

Friday, February 10, 2017

Q & A with Chantal Hermann entitled "Implicit and Explicit Evaluations of Sexual Aggression Predict Subsequent Sexually Aggressive Behavior in a Sample of Community Men"

Hermann, C. A., & Nunes, K. L. (2016). Implicit and Explicit Evaluations of Sexual Aggression Predict Subsequent Sexually Aggressive Behavior in a Sample of Community Men. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment.

The current longitudinal study explored the extent to which implicit and explicit evaluations of sexual aggression predict subsequent sexually aggressive behavior. Participants (248 community men recruited online) completed measures of implicit and explicit evaluations and self-reported sexually aggressive behavior at two time points, approximately 4 months apart. Implicit and explicit evaluations of sexual aggression at Wave 1 had small significant and independent predictive relationships with sexually aggressive behavior at Wave 2, while controlling for sexually aggressive behavior at Wave 1. This is the first study to test whether implicit and explicit evaluations predict subsequent sexually aggressive behavior. Our findings are consistent with the possibility that both implicit and explicit evaluations may be relevant for understanding and preventing subsequent sexually aggressive behavior. If these findings can be replicated, evaluations of sexual aggression should be studied with more rigorous methodology (e.g., experimental design) and correctional/forensic populations, and possibly addressed in risk assessment and interventions.

Could you talk us through where the idea for the research came from?

Evaluations are an individual’s evaluative thoughts about something such as a person, object, or behavior (e.g., Albarracín, Zanna, Johnson, & Kumkale, 2005; Ajzen, 2001; Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2007). Social psychology theory and research support the idea that evaluations, in part, predict behavior (e.g., Ajzen 1991, 2001; Glasman & Albarracín, 2006; Kraus, 1995). Empirical evidence suggests this is true whether the evaluations are immediate (implicit evaluations) or deliberative (explicit evaluations), and that both the automatic and deliberative evaluations are important (e.g., Greenwald & Farnham, 2000; Nosek & Smyth, 2007). From this research, my colleagues and I hypothesized that how someone evaluates sexual aggression would predict, in part whether or not they would engage in sexually aggressive behavior.

Prior to this study, we had conducted cross-sectional correlational and experimental research examining implicit and explicit evaluations of sexual aggression against adults. In some of our studies, we found more positive implicit evaluations of rape were associated with self-reported sexually aggressive behavior against adults and self-reported likelihood to rape (Nunes, Hermann, & Ratcliffe, 2013), and in all or our studies we found more positive explicit evaluations of rape were associated with self-reported sexually aggressive behavior against adults and self-reported likelihood to rape (Hermann, Nunes, & Maimone, 2016; Nunes, Hermann, White, Pettersen, & Bumby, 2016; Nunes et al., 2013). These studies provided preliminary evidence that evaluations are related to sexual offending against adults. Prior to this study, however, we hadn’t yet explored whether evaluations predict subsequent sexually aggressive behavior against adults. This was an important next step because if evaluations are a causal factor for this type of behavior, then we would expect that they would predict whether or not people engage in future sexually aggressive behavior.

We also wanted to explore this research question using a sample of men recruited from the community. Sexually aggressive behavior encompasses behaviors that differ in tactic (verbal coercion to physical aggression) and sexual acts (unwanted kissing or touching to penetrative acts). We know that many sexual assaults go undetected, and even if they are detected, may not result in official charges or convictions. This means that individuals with convictions for sexual aggression may not be fully representative of men who engage in sexually aggressive behavior against adults. In our past research we have used student samples, but these samples tend to be fairly homogeneous in their demographic characteristics, so they also may not be fully representative of men who engage in sexually aggressive behavior against adults. Community samples can offer diversity and complement samples of students and men with convictions for sexual aggression.       

What kinds of challenges did you face throughout the process?
There were several logistical challenges we faced while conducting this research. The first was conducting this type of research online with a sample of community men. We needed to be able to get quality data and compensate participants for their efforts. We tried several different methods of collecting data online before settling on using Qualtrics and recruiting from a panel of participants.

A second challenge we faced was setting up the implicit measures in the Qualtrics survey environment. We hired a computer programmer to help with the development of these measures, but still had to work closely with the computer programmer to tailor the measures to our needs. We used a combination of computer code (javascript) and pre-existing Qualtrics’ functions to present the blocks and trials, randomize the presentation of stimuli, and record reaction times for our IAT measures.

What do you believe to be to be the main things that you have learnt about evaluations of Sexual Aggression in predicting sexually Aggressive Behavior in men in the community? 

This research is preliminary, but suggests that explicit and implicit evaluations are relevant for understanding sexual aggression against adults. This is consistent with the social psychology literature noted above and suggests we should continue to explore the role evaluations may play in sexual aggression against adults.

This research was part of a series of studies I conducted for my dissertation (also see Hermann et al., 2016; Hermann, 2015). From these studies, we also learned that the pattern of relationships between evaluations and past sexually aggressive behavior and self-reported likelihood to rape was consistent for samples of students and community men. A common critique of research on sexual aggression conducted with student samples is that the results may not generalize to other samples of men (i.e., community or incarcerated samples). The results of the current study suggest that this may not be the case for research exploring the relationship between evaluations of sexual aggression and sexually aggressive behavior. Next we would like to try to replicate these findings with incarcerated samples of men with convictions for sexual aggression against adults to determine if research conducted with students and community men could also generalize to this population.

Now that you’ve published the article, what are some implications for practitioners?

We would suggest that more rigorous research is needed replicating and expanding this line of research before there are implications for practitioners. However, if future research finds evaluations predict sexually aggressive behavior against adults, that evaluations of sexual aggression can change, and that change is associated with changes in sexually aggressive behavior, then evaluations of sexual aggression would be an important target in risk assessment and treatment. 

Chantal A. Hermann, Ph.D




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Ajzen, I. (1991). The Theory of Planned Behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211. doi 10.1016/0749-5978(91)90020-T

Ajzen, I. (2001). Nature and operation of attitudes. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 27-58. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.27

Glasman, L. R., & Albarracín, D. (2006). Forming attitudes that predict future behavior: A meta-analysis of the attitude-behavior relation. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 778-822. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.5.778

Gawronski, B., & Bodenhausen, G. V. (2007). Unraveling the processes underlying evaluation: Attitudes from the perspective of the APE model. Social Cognition, 25, 687-717. doi: 10.1521/soco.2007.25.5.687

Greenwald, A. G., & Farnham, S. D. (2000). Using the Implicit Association Test to measure self-esteem and self-concept. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 1022-1038. doi 10.1037//0022-3514.79.6.1022

Hermann, C. A. (2015). Evaluations of rape: Investigations using implicit and explicit measures, online research methodology, and samples of community men (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Carleton University, Ottawa.

Hermann, C. A. & Nunes, K. L. (2016). Implicit and explicit evaluations of sexual aggression predict subsequent sexually aggressive behavior in a sample of community men. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/1079063216682952

Hermann, C. A., Nunes, K. L., & Maimone, S. (2016). Examining implicit and explicit evaluations of sexual aggression and sexually aggressive behavior in men recruited online. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/1079063216681560

Kraus, S. J. (1995). Attitudes and the prediction of behavior: A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 58-75. doi:


Nosek, B. A., & Smyth, F. L. (2007). A multitrait-multimethod validation of the Implicit Association Test: Implicit and explicit attitudes are related but distinct constructs. Experimental Psychology, 54, 14-29. doi 10.1027/1618-3169.54.1.14

Nunes, K. L., Hermann, C. A., & Ratcliffe, K. (2013). Implicit and explicit attitudes towards rape are associated with sexual aggression. Journal of Interpersonal violence, 28, 2657-2675. doi: 10.1177/0886260513487995

Nunes, K. L., Hermann, C. A., White, K., Pettersen, C., & Bumby, K. (2016). Attitude may be everything, but is everything an attitude? Cognitive distortions may not be evaluations towards rape. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/1079063215625489