Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Personality Change and Virtual Trauma Exposure: The Effects of Viewing Online Child Sexual Exploitation Images on Global Personality Factors of Law Enforcement Investigators

Deborah A. Richardson, Fielding's School of Psychology

This study was conducted to determine whether personality changes in federal investigators as the result of repeatedly viewing digital child sexual exploitation (CSE) images to investigate Internet crimes. The question of whether the nature of digital child sexual exploitation investigation constitutes an abnormal and traumatic event, resulting in changes in stable personality traits and profiles, was investigated. The subjects were 134 Innocent Images investigators assigned to a federal task force to identify children being sexually exploited online. The investigators’16PF 5th edition global factor sten scores changed significantly across all factors, with the most change occurring in Anxiety, Extraversion and Tough-Mindedness. Females were 18% more likely to experience a sten score change in Extraversion than men, and 14% more likely to experience a sten score change in Anxiety than their male counterparts. The most personality change occurred 24-months after the viewing experience began. This study helped to show through the measurement of global personality factor sten score change that investigators who viewed CSE images over a two-year period were impacted by their viewing experience. The Investigator samples’ perceptions about their personality characteristics changed during the time they viewed CSE images. The findings of this research have implications for how individuals working in such assignments should be supported as well as how their employers can develop programs to assist them.

Key words: Child Sexual Exploitation, Virtual Trauma, Personality Change

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