Category Archives: Publications

Applying a Research-Based Assessment Model to Child Sexual Abuse Investigations: Model and Case Descriptions of an Expert Center

March 2018

Taina Laajasalo, Julia Korkman, Tom Pakkanen, Merja Oksanen, Lampenius
Tuulikki, Emma Peltomaa & Eeva T. Aronen

The aims of this study were twofold: First, to describe a comprehensive assessment model utilized in a center specializing in child sexual abuse (CSA) investigations, and second, to describe the nature and characteristics of the families and allegations assessed, and analyze how case characteristics are related to the assessment outcomes of the CSA allegations. The sample consisted of 145 children who participated in a forensic CSA investigation between 2006 and 2011 at the Forensic Psychology Center in Helsinki University Central Hospital. Variables related to family characteristics and the alleged CSA were assessed. In the majority of the cases, the allegation was not substantiated, while a quarter of the allegations remained inconclusive. CSA was confirmed in 17% of the cases. Most of the investigated children and their families had several psychosocial risk factors in their background. The children and families involved in CSA investigations seemed to be a high-risk group in terms of psychiatric symptoms and multiple family background adversities. These were, however, unrelated to the assessment outcome. The importance of using a hypothesis testing approach is discussed, as well as how this can be done in practice.

Find the article on ResearchGate.

The Effect of Sex and Perpetrator-Victim Relationship on Perceptions of Domestic Homicide

May 2018

Linda Karlsson, Tuulia Malen, Johanna K. Kaakinen & Jan Antfolk

Previous research on how stereotypes affect perceptions of intimate partner violence and domestic homicide has found that violence committed by men is perceived as more severe and judged more harshly than violence committed by women. The present mock jury study investigated how perpetrator sex (male or female), crime type (familicide or filicide), and relatedness between perpetrator and child victims (biological or step) affect laypeople’s perceptions of the appropriate consequence of the crime, the reason for the offense, responsibility of the perpetrator, the likelihood of certain background factors being present, and the risk of future violence. One hundred sixty-seven university students read eight fictive descriptions of cases of multiple-victim domestic homicides, in which the sex of the perpetrator, the crime type, and the relatedness between the perpetrator and the child victims were manipulated. We found that participants recommended equally severe punishments to and placed the same amount of responsibility on male and female offenders. Female offenders were, however, regarded as mentally ill to a larger extent and perceived more likely to have been victims of domestic violence compared with male offenders. Male offenders were seen as more likely to have committed domestic violence in the past, having been unemployed, have substance abuse, hold aggressive attitudes, and commit violent acts in the future. Participants also perceived offenders killing biological children as more mentally ill than those killing stepchildren. The present study extends the literature on the possible effect of stereotypes on decision making in psychiatric and judicial contexts.

Find the article on ResearchGate.

Cues to paternity: Do partner fidelity and offspring resemblance predict daughter-directed sexual aversions?

February 2018

Joseph Billingsley, Jan Antfolk, Pekka Santtila & Debra Lieberman

Despite the profound influence of relatedness on mating and cooperative behavior in humans, the cues men use to assess paternity and guide offspring-directed behavior have yet to be fully resolved. According to leading theories of kin detection, kinship cues should influence both sexual and altruistic motivations because of fitness consequences associated with inbreeding and welfare tradeoff decisions, respectively. Prior work with paternity assessment, however, has generally evaluated candidate cues solely by demonstrating associations with altruism. Here we (i) replicate past work that found effects of phenotypic resemblance and perceived partner fidelity on offspring investment; and (ii) evaluate whether both phenotypic resemblance and perceived partner fidelity meet the more stringent criteria suggested by theory-that is, whether they also predict inbreeding aversions. We report on two studies, one from a population-based sample of Finnish fathers (N = 390), the other from a Mechanical Turk sample (N = 700), and furnish evidence in strong support of perceived partner fidelity as a cue to paternity. Support for resemblance as a cue to paternity was decidedly weaker. We discuss a non-kin-based role that resemblance might play in altruistic decision-making, consider whether men might use additional kinship cues to meet the computational challenges associated with paternity assessment, and provide suggestions for future research.

Find the article on ResearchGate.

Child Forensic Interviewing in Finland: Investigating Suspected Child Abuse at the Forensic Psychology Unit for Children and Adolescents

October 2017

Julia Korkman, Tom Pakkanen & Taina Laajasalo

In Finland, specialised university hospital units have been set up to ensure a child-friendly and expert setting for investigating suspected crimes against children. The units conduct investigative interviews especially in cases involving young children or particularly vulnerable child victims, and provide expert assistance when requested by the police. In this chapter we present the legal and theoretical framework of these units. We focus on two specific elements within the Finnish system: the use of (forensic) psychological expertise within the pre-trial investigation and the hypothesis-testing approach. During the investigations at the units, particular care is made in collecting and assessing the background information of each case and planning the investigation accordingly. The scientific framework and its practical applications are demonstrated through case vignettes.

Find the article on ResearchGate.

Children’s disclosures of sexual abuse in a population-based sample

October 2017

Hanna Lahtinen, Aarno Laitila, Julia Korkman & Noora Ellonen

Most previous studies on disclosing child sexual abuse (CSA) have either been retrospective or focused on children who already have disclosed. The present study aimed to explore the overall CSA disclosure rate and factors associated with disclosing to adults in a large population-based sample. A representative sample of 11,364 sixth and ninth graders participated in the Finnish Child Victim Survey concerning experiences of violence, including CSA. CSA was defined as having sexual experiences with a person at least five years older at the time of the experience. Within this sample, the CSA prevalence was 2.4%. Children reporting CSA experiences also answered questions regarding disclosure, the disclosure recipient, and potential reasons for not disclosing. The results indicate that most of the children (80%) had disclosed to someone, usually a friend (48%). However, only 26% had disclosed to adults, and even fewer had reported their experiences to authorities (12%). The most common reason for non-disclosing was that the experience was not considered serious enough for reporting (41%), and half of the children having CSA experiences did not self-label their experiences as sexual abuse. Relatively few children reported lacking the courage to disclose (14%). Logistic regression analyses showed that the perpetrator’s age, the age of the victim at the time of abuse, and having no experiences of emotional abuse by the mother were associated with disclosing to an adult. The results contribute to understanding the factors underlying children’s disclosure patterns in a population-based sample and highlight the need for age-appropriate safety education for children and adolescents.

Find the article on ResearchGate.

A Bayesian Decision-Support Tool for Child Sexual Abuse Assessment and Investigation

September 2017

Alessandro Tadei, Johan Pensar, Jukka Corander, Katarina Finnilä, Pekka Santtila & Jan Antfolk

In assessments of child sexual abuse (CSA) allegations, informative background information is often overlooked or not used properly. We therefore created and tested an instrument that uses accessible background information to calculate the probability of a child being a CSA victim that can be used as a starting point in the following investigation. Studying 903 demographic and socio-economic variables from over 11,000 Finnish children, we identified 42 features related to CSA. Using Bayesian logic to calculate the probability of abuse, our instrument – the Finnish Investigative Instrument of Child Sexual Abuse (FICSA) – has two separate profiles for boys and girls. A cross-validation procedure suggested excellent diagnostic utility (AUC = .97 for boys and AUC = .88 for girls). We conclude that the presented method can be useful in forensic assessments of CSA allegations by adding a reliable statistical approach to considering background information, and to support clinical decision making and guide investigative efforts.

Find the article on ResearchGate.

A Combination of Outcome and Process Feedback Enhances Performance in Simulations of Child Sexual Abuse Interviews Using Avatars

September 2017

Francesco Pompedda, Jan Antfolk, Angelo Zappalà & Pekka Santtila

Simulated interviews in alleged child sexual abuse (CSA) cases with computer-generated avatars paired with feedback improve interview quality. In the current study, we aimed to understand better the effect of different types of feedback in this context. Feedback was divided into feedback regarding conclusions about what happened to the avatar (outcome feedback) and feedback regarding the appropriateness of question-types used by the interviewer (process feedback). Forty-eight participants each interviewed four different avatars. Participants were divided into four groups (no feedback, outcome feedback, process feedback, and a combination of both feedback types). Compared to the control group, interview quality was generally improved in all the feedback groups on all outcome variables included. Combined feedback produced the strongest effect on increasing recommended questions and correct conclusions. For relevant and neutral details elicited by the interviewers, no statistically significant differences were found between feedback types. For wrong details, the combination of feedback produced the strongest effect, but this did not differ from the other two feedback groups. Nevertheless, process feedback produced a better result compared to outcome feedback. The present study replicated previous findings regarding the effect of feedback in improving interview quality, and provided new knowledge on feedback characteristics that maximize training effects. A combination of process and outcome feedback showed the strongest effect in enhancing training in simulated CSA interviews. Further research is, however, needed.

Find the article on ResearchGate.

Experiences of severe childhood maltreatment, depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse among adults in Finland

May 2017

Wail Rehan, Jan Antfolk, Ada Johansson, Patrick Jern & Pekka Santtila

Childhood maltreatment increases the risk of subsequent depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse, but the rate of resilient victims is unknown. Here, we investigated the rate of victims that do not suffer from clinical levels of these problems after severe maltreatment in a population based sample of 10980 adult participants. Compared to men, women reported more severe emotional and sexual abuse, as well as more severe emotional neglect. For both genders, severe emotional abuse (OR = 3.80 [2.22, 6.52]); severe physical abuse (OR = 3.97 [1.72, 9.16]); severe emotional neglect (OR = 3.36 [1.73, 6.54]); and severe physical neglect (OR = 11.90 [2.66, 53.22]) were associated with depression and anxiety while only severe physical abuse (OR = 3.40 [1.28, 9.03]) was associated with alcohol abuse. Looking at men and women separately, severe emotional abuse (OR = 6.05 [1.62, 22.60] in men; OR = 3.74 [2.06, 6.81] in women) and severe physical abuse (OR = 6.05 [1.62, 22.60] in men; OR = 3.03 [0.99, 9.33] in women) were associated with clinical levels of depression and anxiety. In addition, in women, severe sexual abuse (OR = 2.40 [1.10, 5.21]), emotional neglect (OR = 4.78 [2.40, 9.56]), and severe physical neglect (OR = 9.86 [1.99, 48.93]) were associated with clinical levels of depression and anxiety. Severe emotional abuse in men (OR = 3.86 [0.96, 15.48]) and severe physical abuse in women (OR = 5.18 [1.48, 18.12]) were associated with alcohol abuse. Concerning resilience, the majority of severely maltreated participants did not report clinically significant levels of depression or anxiety (72%), or alcohol abuse (93%) in adulthood. Although the majority of severely abused or neglected individuals did not show clinical levels of depression, anxiety or alcohol use, severe childhood maltreatment increased the risk for showing clinical levels of psychopathology in adulthood.

Find the article on ResearchGate.

Using offender crime scene behavior to link stranger sexual assaults: A comparison of three statistical approaches

April 2017

Tonkin, M., Pakkanen, T., Sirén, J., Bennell, C., Woodhams, J., Burrell, A., Imre, H., Winter, J. M., Lam, E., ten Brinke, G., Webb, M., Labuschagne, G. N., Ashmore-Hills, L., van der Kemp, J. J., Lipponen, S., Rainbow, L., Salfati, C. G., & Santtila, P.

Purpose: This study compared the utility of different statistical methods in differentiating sexual crimes committed by the same person from sexual crimes committed by different persons. Methods: Logistic regression, iterative classification tree (ICT), and Bayesian analysis were applied to a dataset of 3,364 solved, unsolved, serial, and apparent one-off sexual assaults committed in five countries. Receiver Operating Characteristic analysis was used to compare the statistical approaches. Results: All approaches achieved statistically significant levels of discrimination accuracy. Two out of three Bayesian methods achieved a statistically higher level of accuracy (Areas Under the Curve [AUC] = 0.89 [Bayesian coding method 1]; AUC = 0.91 [Bayesian coding method 3]) than ICT analysis (AUC = 0.88), logistic regression (AUC = 0.87), and Bayesian coding method 2 (AUC = 0.86). Conclusions: The ability to capture/utilize between-offender differences in behavioral consistency appear to be of benefit when linking sexual offenses. Statistical approaches that utilize individual offender behaviors when generating crime linkage predictions may be preferable to approaches that rely on a single summary score of behavioral similarity. Crime linkage decision-support tools should incorporate a range of statistical methods and future research must compare these methods in terms of accuracy, usability, and suitability for practice.

Find the article on ResearchGate.