Three prominent theories—learning, gender, and biological—propose factors that make abuse more likely. Proponents of learning theories believe that what children learn from their environment or those around them contributes to their behavior later in life. Many child sex abusers were themselves sexually abused as children. Many reported an early initiation into sexual behavior that taught them about sex at a young age. Many learned that such behavior was how adults show love and affection to children.

Proponents of gender theories identify gender as an important aspect in the devel­opment of an abuser—sexual abusers are overwhelmingly male (Finkelhor et al., 1990).

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