Assessment of Sexual Offenders Against Children: The APSAC
Study Guides 1
Vernon L. Quinsey and Martin L. Lalummiėre
||Sage Publications, Inc., ©1996
2455 Teller Rd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
$95.00 (p) (includes testing for six continuing education credits)
The study guide and the accompanying knowledge tests in this short
book (98-pages including notes, bibliography, and tests) are intended to
advance the knowledge of professionals and fulfill legal requirements
for continuing education. These guides are produced by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
(APSAC). This first guide
is likely to be quite influential and to have significant impact on the
practice of assessing sexual offenders against children. It is a worthy
goal and certainly is an attempt to meet a serious and compelling need
the improvement of assessment procedures and changing the
unsupported mythologies that pervade the assessment of offenders. Whether this short and limited guide can accomplish this remains to be
There is no attempt to instruct the practitioner in the nature of
science, the interaction of science and practice, and the necessity to
have skill in distinguishing between claims where there is credible
scientific support and those which are speculative and unsupported.
There are short sections purporting to be summaries of relevant research
relating to adults who sexually offend against children. The research
cited is limited and sometimes appears to be an arbitrary selection
rather than an effort to select the most relevant material.
Although the book's brief summary of applicable research notes that
the research evidence is weak, controversial, limited in
generalizability, and without much practical applicability, the readers
for whom the book is intended are not likely to be sophisticated enough
to appreciate these caveats. It is more likely that the cautions will be
ignored and the statements about research findings treated as if they
were strongly supported and scientific fact. If this is the effect, it
is not likely to improve practice very much.
In point of fact, the research summarized does not provide strong
support for any particular practical step. It appears there is little
evidence to undergird the assessment of sexual offenders. Clinicians, of
course, must respond and cannot wait for the research to be done. However, one thing that can be done is to show where there is negative
evidence that falsifies some claims and procedures. Instruction can be
given as to what ought not be done.
The single largest part of the book is devoted to the highly
recommended use of the penile plethysmograph. Unfortunately, the
research that calls into question the use of the plethysmograph as an
assessment technique is ignored. The practitioner who follows the advice
given may see the plethysmograph as the silver bullet that magically
solves assessment questions. This would be unfortunate in view of the
many serious problems there are in using the device as a diagnostic
If the limited goal is to advance the practice of assessing
offenders, this study guide may be of limited utility and effectiveness.
If the goal is to amass the 6 continuing education credits this program
offers, that can be reached quite readily.
Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota 55057.