A young relative of ours has an infant child. She has been estranged from the father of the baby since shortly after the baby’s birth. She has some concerns about this man’s behaviour while around the baby. When he has been holding the baby or playing with the baby he has had (and by his own admission acknowledged) an erection. He maintains that this is only because he is so very happy and excited to hold the baby and has no sexual implication and that there is nothing “abnormal” about it. The baby’s mother is fearful of this behaviour. She has expressed her concerns to the father and explained that because of this she does not feel she can allow the baby to be alone in his care. Currently the baby is breast fed so this is temporarily stopping those visits from happening but the father is becoming more insistent about his right to more time with the baby in his own home. The baby’s mom has indicated that she is comfortable for him to come and visit the baby in her home but she can not accept the baby going to stay with him. He says he has a right to his weekends and that he has been assured by professionals that his behaviour is not abnormal. I have been trying to find some reliable research on this online but cannot. The fact that he acknowledged this behaviour rather than denying it would lend some credibility to his assertion but is not totally reassuring by a long shot. This young man has had a troubled past with abuse by adults in his own childhood. Would you be able to comment on this situation as I presented it here or would you be aware of any reliable studies we could look at?
Thanks for your very balanced and thoughtful question. I asked Dr. William Marshall, a world authority on the understanding and treatment of people who are sexually attracted to children, for advice on this question and have incorporated his wisdom into my answer.
There is no certain evidence that the child’s father will molest the baby if given the chance. However, there are significant “red flags” that would strongly suggest that this young man might have sexual interest in the baby.
First, having an erection while holding a baby is not a normal response. It is amazing to me that a professional would say that this is normal or acceptable.
Second, the lack of concern he has about his erections is worrisome. This shows a lack of insight into how others might view his behavior. Even more worrisome is that he appears to have no insight into his own potential behavior.
Finally, most men who have been sexually abused as a child do not become child molesters themselves. However, a significant percentage of child molesters have been molested themselves.
You and the mother of the baby are right to be very concerned. I would encourage her to continue her insistence that there are no unsupervised visits. She should seek legal advice on how she can prevent these visits in the future.