Repertoires of paedophilia: Conflicting descriptions of adult-child sexual relationships in the investigative interview


  • Kelly Benneworth University of York



Content analysis, suspected paedophile, repertoire, discourse, police, investigative interview


A review of the literature revealed that adult-child sexual relationships are often described in terms of personal bonds and emotions in pro-paedophile propaganda and the accounts of convicted paedophiles. On the other hand, in the investigative interview police officers must encourage offenders to be precise in their accounts and describe sexual contact. Research has not determined whether these two conflicting approaches to the description of paedophilia are observable in police interviews and, if so, considered the implications for the criminal investigation. Eleven audiotaped police interviews with paedophiles conducted at a Child Protection Unit in 2000 were transcribed. A corpus of 20 physical’ references to sexual activity and bodily contact and 42 ‘emotional’ words involving feelings and relationships were identified and the incidence of the terms was quantified. Content analysis confirmed that police officers and paedophiles do describe adult-child sexual relationships differently in the investigative interview. The police used the ‘physical’ repertoire more frequently, while the suspects exhibited a preference for the ‘emotional’ repertoire (?2 = 125.518; df = 1; p<0.01). The suspects also used euphemistic and colloquial language more frequently than the police (?2= 65.964; df = 1; p<0.01).The practical implications of the study and recommendations for future research are outlined.

Author Biography

Kelly Benneworth, University of York

Kelly Benneworth is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of York. Kelly arrived in York in 2005 after completing her PhD at Loughborough University on the discourse analysis of police interviews with paedophiles. The Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is enabling Kelly to disseminate her PhD findings and embark on the next stage of her research on the discourse analysis and conversation analysis of language interactions involving suspected and convicted paedophiles in forensic settings. Communication Studies Department of Sociology University of York Heslington, York YO10 5DD



How to Cite

Benneworth, K. (2006). Repertoires of paedophilia: Conflicting descriptions of adult-child sexual relationships in the investigative interview. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 13(2), 189–211.