Legal and Social Issues Research Lab

CPA 2003


Come see us at CPA:
Thursday, 3 p.m. talk, Room 201
The role of acculturation and family in the rate of disordered eating behaviours among Chinese Canadians.
*** Winner of the Ken Bower Clinical Award for student papers
Friday, 2 p.m. poster, Chedoke BC
Pathways into prostitution in Western Canada
Saturday, 3 p.m. symposium, Webster B
Prostituted women and their clients: New Canadian research data


Poster 1: Pathways into prostitution in Western Canada

M. Alexis Kennedy, Jessica T. K. Bristowe and Carolin Klein , University of British Columbia, Department of Psychology

Very few children dream of growing up to become a prostitute. It is not a career that most parents want their daughters to pursue. Yet, it is easy to find children, someone's little girl, in any major city in Western Canada.  These children come from a variety of backgrounds, upper class and lower class, educated and non-educated.  But they share a common plight; someone has convinced them to prostitute themselves for money.

While social scientists strive to tease out casual pathways for human behaviour, there appears to be no simple explanation for why children and women are drawn into street prostitution.  A comprehensive qualitative survey of women involved in the sex trade in Western Canada reveals multiple diverse pathways into the trade.  Every woman's story is unique but some rough patterns do emerge.  The women the authors interviewed have been victimized in multiple ways so in an attempt to prevent further exploitation, individual stories are not presented but rather composite descriptions are used.

The authors have interviewed over 100 women involved in the sex trade industry in Western Canada.  This poster will describe multiple pathways into prostitution.

Indexing keywords: Prostitution; victimization


Poster 2: Cross-cultural perceptions of child abuse

Dilys Leung, M. Alexis Kennedy & Boris B. Gorzalka, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia

Child rearing practices vary cross-culturally and behaviours that may be standard in one country may be considered abusive in others.  Ethnic and cultural variations create multifarious interpretations of child maltreatment, which prevents a universal definition of the issue.  The definition of child abuse is ultimately based on the specific cultures views on the value and vulnerability of children and acceptable forms of parenting strategies.  With a gradual increase in the knowledge of cross-cultural norms over recent years, there is an emerging understanding of what constitutes abusive behaviour within each specific culture.  This study is an exploration of cross-cultural differences in identifying abusive behaviour.  Abuse is defined through a Western emic, using items based on a Western measure of abuse, the Child Abuse and Trauma scale (Sanders & Becker-Lausen, 1995).  Eighteen hundred participants of East Asian, Southeast Asian, Indo-Asian and European Caucasian descent rated items depicting physical, mental and sexual abuse.  Preliminary analysis reveals that there are ethnic differences in perceptions of what constitutes abusive behaviour among the Canadian university students polled.  Asian participants were significantly more tolerant of the use of physical discipline.  Perceptions of sexually abusive behaviour showed the least amount of cross-cultural variation.


Paper: The role of acculturation and family in the rate of disordered eating behaviours among Chinese Canadians.

Karen Ip, M. Alexis Kennedy, Joti Samra and Boris B. Gorzalka, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia

It has long been suggested that eating disorders are more common in Western cultures, where slimness is idealized and venerated (Polivy & Herman, 2002). However, in Chinese cultures, the obsession with slimness is less apparent, and fatness is often viewed as a sign of prosperity and health (Nasser, 1988).  Consequently, the prevalence of eating disorders is much lower in this culture, and was once thought to be nearly non-existent (Lee, Chiu, & Chen, 1989).  If sociocultural factors do play a pivotal role in the development of eating disorders, it is hypothesized that as Chinese Canadians become more acculturated and more immersed in Western culture, their risk of developing disordered eating symptomology should increase.  However, the evidence concerning this relationship has been mixed.  Contributing variables, such as parental warmth, have not been taken into consideration.  The present study addresses this concern  while examining the relationship between acculturation and the rate of disordered eating behaviours in over 500 Canadian-born Chinese and Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan.  These groups, although all ethnically Chinese, have been differentially exposed to Western ideals and values, and therefore may differ in their reaction to Western messages concerning thinness and image during the acculturation process.  Research and clinical implications will be discussed.

Symposium: Prostituted women and their clients: New Canadian research data

Moderator: M. Alexis Kennedy

The world of prostitution is receiving new attention in Canada as we come to grips with the most serious serial murder case in our countrys history.  Prostitution has traditionally been considered a victimless crime but a new awareness is beginning to emerge of the traumas faced daily by street prostitutes.  This symposium will present findings from recent research projects conducted in Toronto and Vancouver on both prostituted women and the men who exploit them.  The anonymity of men who solicit prostitutes,  johns, has hindered research on this population of offenders to date.  Three talks will unveil Canadian johns and a final talk will discuss the victimization of prostituted women.

Talk 1: Johns in Toronto: Information from the Evaluation of the Toronto John School

Scot Wortley & Benedikt Fischer, Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto

This talk will discuss the results of a longitudinal survey conducted with men who participated in Torontos diversion program for people arrested for soliciting or attempting to solicit a prostitute.  366 men were interviewed both before and after attending the John School.  The demographics of the participants will be discussed in relation to the demographics of the Toronto area.  Attitude change will be examined longitudinally.   History of experience with prostitution, in addition to self-disclosed reasons for using prostitution will be reported.  Participants feelings about being arrested and the factors that made them chose to participate in the diversion program will be discussed.  The long-term impact of John school attendance will compare changes in attitudes toward prostitution six months after attending the program to pre-attendance and immediately post-attendance attitudes.


Talk 2: Johns in Vancouver: Demographics, experience and attitudes

M. Alexis Kennedy, Boris B. Gorzalka & John C. Yuille, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia

Research on the consumers of sex-trade services or johns is relatively sparse compared to research on other sexual offenders.  Due to the underground nature of the sex-trade, finding consumers to survey can be difficult at times. From a theoretical perspective, the client or purchaser is central to the crime of soliciting a prostitute. From a forensic psychology point of view, the purchaser is a criminal element that we have very little psychological or social data on.  From a social policy perspective, the purchaser is an identifiable target or point for social intervention.  For any intervention to be successful, information on attitudes held by sex trade consumers toward prostitution is essential. 

This talk will explore the demographics and attitudes of over 350 men arrested for trying to solicit sex from prostituted women and who chose to participate the Prostitution Offender Program (POP). The POP is a daylong criminal justice diversion program offered in British Columbia.  The demographic profile of these participants will include information on their ethnicity, age, educational level, employment, marital status and health.  Some information will be presented on their experiences with prostitution, including frequency of use.  The attitudes that the participants hold towards the sexual exploitation of women and children living on the streets will also be explored.


Talk 3: Childhood and occupational victimization of prostituted women in Vancouver

Jessica T. K. Bristowe, M. Alexis Kennedy, Barry S. Cooper & John C. Yuille, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia

Prostitution has been considered a "victimless crime" in which women are viewed as having chosen to sell their bodies. However, prostituted women are constant victims of violent crimes such as rape, physical assault, and murder (Davis, 1993). Childhood sexual abuse has been identified as a risk factor for entering into the sex trade. This study will present data on the rates of childhood and occupational victimization of women working on the streets in Vancouver, British Columbia. Forty-two prostituted women were interviewed at a safe house in the downtown East Side of Vancouver. The women ranged in age from 19 to 59 and reported their ethnic identity to be Caucasian or First Nations/Metis (50% each). Trained women interviewers conducted confidential interviews and administered the questionnaires orally. Sexual abuse will be analyzed for familial versus non-familial perpetrators. Other types of abuse experience will also be assessed such as rates of physical punishment, neglect, negative home atmosphere and emotional abuse as measured by the Child Abuse and Trauma scale (Sanders & Becker-Lausen, 1995).


Talk 4: A Comparison Study of the Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors in Men who Solicit Sex Versus Those Who Do Not

Carolin Klein, M. Alexis Kennedy, Boris B. Gorzalka, & John C. Yuille

While several hypotheses have been proposed for why men go to prostitutes (Jordan, 1997; Monto, 2000), to date there have been no empirical studies looking at the differences in attitudes, behaviors, and sexual experiences of those who do and those who do not purchase sexual services. As a result, there has been little evidence to either support or refute these theories.  Data presented here are the first part of a larger study looking at the variables often attributed to going to prostitutes such as a higher than normal sex drive, dissatisfaction in, or lack of, intimate relationships, and an inability to get other sexual partners.  Over 250 university males who had never gone to prostitutes filled out questionnaires identical to those filled out by 300 men arrested for communicating for the purposes of prostitution who took part in the Prostitution Offender Program (POP).  Data to be presented will include comparisons between the two groups on dimensions such as sexual drive, sexual conservatism, and sexual satisfaction as well as past sexual experiences.  Gaining an understanding of the reasons behind going to prostitutes is not only important from a behavioral and psychological perspective but may also have implications for how the police and the court system deal with these offenders in the future.