Working with sexual offenders: strength-based approaches and desistance factors

Pryboda, Jennifer (2015) Working with sexual offenders: strength-based approaches and desistance factors. DForenPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

PDF (Thesis - as examined) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (2MB) | Preview


This thesis aims to provide a broad overview of topics relating to desistance factors and strength-based approaches to working with male sex offenders. It incorporates diverse methods, including a systematic review, an empirical study, an individual case study, and a critique of an actuarial risk assessment.

Following an introductory chapter, Chapter 2 presents a systematic evaluation of 15 studies reporting on the relationship between denial or minimisation of offending and recidivism by adult male sex offenders. The highest quality studies (n = 5) do not find a consistent relationship between these variables. Some support for the view of denial as a protective mechanism against recidivism is found. Four studies exploring categorical denial find no relationship between denial and recidivism, lower recidivism rates by categorical deniers. Higher recidivism rates are found for low static risk and intra-familial offenders in categorical denial.

In Chapter 3, predictors of belief in sex offender redeemability are explored in participants working or volunteering with sex offenders, and participants not working or volunteering with offenders. For those working or volunteering with sex offenders, stronger redeemability beliefs were predicted by being less punitive, younger and having a professional role which involved delivering treatment or working with sex offenders in a therapeutic capacity. For participants who did not work or volunteer with offenders, belief in sex offender redeemability was predicted by being less punitive, male, younger and endorsing more situational (rather than dispositional) explanations for sex offending. For female participants, those working or volunteering with sex offenders were less punitive and held stronger redeemability beliefs than females who did not work or volunteer with offenders. This difference was not found for male participants.

Chapter 4 describes a strength-based approach to the assessment, formulation and treatment of an adult male sex offender with an intellectual disability in a prison-setting. The client was deemed to have responded positively to the strength-based treatment approach and progress was made in addressing his treatment need relating to offence-supportive attitudes, antisocial peer network and coping skills. Treatment need remained in relation to sexual interests and intimacy deficits. Positives in the strength-based approach included the use of the ‘success wheel’ to encourage focus on pro-social goals, encouragement to develop an adaptive, pro-social identity and the positive impact on the client’s motivation for change. However, restrictions resulting from the prison setting and standardised framework were highlighted in terms of their impact on strength-based practice.

Chapter 5 critiques the Risk Matrix 2000 actuarial assessment tool for use with intellectually disabled sex offenders. It finds limited empirical support for using the Risk Matrix 2000 with this population and raises concern that high stake decisions are made based on information from this assessment. Further research to explore its reliability and validity for use with this client group is recommended. The Assessment of Risk Manageability for Intellectually Disabled Individuals who Offend Sexually is highlighted as an assessment tool with stronger empirical support in terms of predictive validity. It is found to be a more ethically defensible tool than the Risk Matrix 2000, given its holistic consideration of strengths in addition to deficits.

Chapter 6 concludes that the thesis achieves its overall aims of developing understanding of desistance factors and strength-based approaches to working with sex offenders. A model is developed which proposes several mechanisms through which the desistance process is enabled or impeded for sex offenders. This model incorporates consideration of denial, staff and public attitudes about sex offenders, community reintegration, social capital, self-identity, static risk, supervision, strength-based practice and treatment effectiveness. Future research is recommended to empirically test this model, through further exploration of the potential protective function of denial for sex offenders, exploration of additional variables explaining variation in redeemability beliefs and exploration of the effectiveness of strength-based approaches to assessment and intervention for sex offenders.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DForenPsy)
Supervisors: Browne, K.
Chou, S.
Keywords: Rehabilitation of sex offenders, Denial, Recidivism, Redeemability
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 27888
Depositing User: Pryboda, Jennifer
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2015 13:42
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 06:18

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View