Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Joseph Miller


The purpose of the present study was to better understand factors that may influence public perceptions related to child sexual exploitation material offenders. Specifically, the current study aimed to examine the impact of offender age, motivation for use, and treatment seeking on public perceptions of the offense of child sexual exploitation material possession, as well as treatment implications. Furthermore, public perceptions regarding mandatory reporting of viewing and possessing child sexual exploitation material were explored. The study utilized a vignette in the style of a criminal case describing a situation in which a man is charged with possession of child sexual exploitation material. The vignettes were identical, apart from manipulations of offender age, motivation for use, and treatment seeking desire prior to arrest. Participants’ perceptions of the situation were measured using a series of questions in relation to the vignette. Results suggest that extralegal factors, such as offender age, partially influence observers’ perceptions and decisions in cases of CSEM even though the law does not specify or discriminate based on these extra-legal factors. Participants were more likely to agree that the offender should face prison time when the offender was 65 years old compared to the offender that was 15 years old. Participants did not appear to have a preference for when the offender participated in treatment as there was minimal support for treatment while awaiting trial, during incarceration, and upon release in the community. Implications are discussed.