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Clinical and Research Limitations in the Use of Phallometric Testing with Sexual Offenders

William L. Marshall

[Sexual Offender Treatment, Volume 1 (2006), Issue 1]


In many settings, particularly in North America, phallometric evaluations of sexual arousal are routinely conducted with sexual offenders and these evaluation procedures also serve as research instruments. There are, however, problems with the psychometric bases of these assessments, and studies reporting their use have so many idiosyncratic features that comparisons are of dubious value. Evidence concerning the reliability and criterion validity of phallometric testing leaves a lot to be desired, although the research has suggested a limited value in predicting subsequent recidivism. On the bases of these observations the routine use of phallometric assessments as part of the evaluation of sexual offenders is not recommended.

Key Words: Phallometry, sexual offenders, validity, reliability, limitations

Author address

William L. Marshall
Rockwood Psychological Services
Suite 403, 303 Bagot Street, Kingston
Ontario, K7K 5W7 Canada