The forensic relevance of sexual fantasy: internal mental models, self-Representation and personality

Sowemimo, S. (2016) The forensic relevance of sexual fantasy: internal mental models, self-Representation and personality. DForenPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Practitioners working within forensic environments will be acutely aware of the diverse risks, complex treatment needs and unique responsivity issues found within the multifaceted marginal group of sexual offenders. Deviant sexual fantasy (DSF) is considered to be important in the assessment and treatment of sexual offenders. Despite the recent growth in research, conclusions remain inconsistent on the significance of fantasy in offending behaviour. Furthermore, the underlying structural components of fantasy remain relatively unexplored. The aim of this thesis was to explore the forensic relevance of the fantasy phenomenon predominantly related to sexual offending populations. This was done by investigating the cognitive components of fantasy in regards to the intersection between fantasy, cognition, personality and self-representation (the latter constructs being considered as reflections of individual internal mental models).

Chapter one provided a context to the thesis by presenting an argument that fantasy is forensically relevant in terms of implicit beliefs (offence supportive), cognitions (cognitive distortions, offence supportive beliefs) and personality organisation and functioning (e.g. coping mechanisms). Chapter two detailed a literature review following a systematic approach, exploring the role of fantasy within sexual offending behaviour. Sixteen studies were included in the review. An associative relationship was found between offence supportive fantasy and sex offending behaviour. Personality (among others) was identified as one of the moderating factors within this relationship. However, key methodological limitations with the included studies were discussed. Chapter three utilised a case study approach to consider the complexities of assessment and treatment for a medium risk internet sexual offender (ST). This chapter explored ST’s vulnerabilities in depth (low self-esteem, interpersonal difficulties, emotional dysregulation, rigid cognitive style) and provided a comprehensive assessment and formulation of risk (fantasy experiences reinforce offence supportive attitudes and cognitive distortions). Results suggested that fantasy could be mapped onto personality, organisation and functioning. ST’s fantasy life was considered a latent variable that only became an acute and dynamic risk factor when combined with his distorted attitudes. Chapter four detailed a critique of the MCMI-III. Specific emphasis was placed on assessing the utility of the measure within forensic settings and how this could supplement assessment of fantasy experiences. The tool was found to be psychometrically stable, however it was suggested that use with a sex offender population is approached with caution. Chapter five investigated associations between personality, fantasy proneness and sexual fantasies, in addition to exploring the function and structural components of sexual fantasy. An anonymous electronic questionnaire (containing several psychometric questionnaires e.g. IPIP-50, WSFQ, CEQ) was presented online for a period of 12 weeks. 259 males participated in the study. Links to fantasy proneness, certain personality markers (e.g. agreeableness, intellect/imagination) and early abusive experiences were found. Static fantasy experiences were associated with conscientiousness. Behavioural expression of fantasy was associated with extraversion. ‘Vividness’ of sexual fantasy was explained by the following themes: 1) Boundaries of imagination 2) Context 3) Structure of fantasy and, 4) Fantasy-Reality distinction. Finally, chapter six provides a conclusion to the thesis by summarising the main findings, with particular emphasis on how findings relate more directly to the fantasy phenomenon. The main suppositions and recommendations are as follows:

• Fantasies prime self-other associations. Thus, indirect measures of fantasy may be useful and allow the cognitive mapping of fantasy.

• A tiered definition of offence related fantasy is recommended pertaining to frequency, vividness, level of intrusion and the risk relevance.

• Control (and disintegration of), coping and cognitive capabilities are implicated as important concepts for fantasy prone individuals. To a certain point, offence related fantasy may act as a protective factor for some individuals, until the fantasy can no longer satiate their needs.

• The temporal ordering of fantasy function is important in determining risk relevance pertaining to protective factors (emotional regulation), risk inducing factors (priming offender identity) and high risk situations.

• Fantasy generation is a skill; the more involvement an individual has with their internal world the more adept they will be at generating complex fantasy experiences and, in turn, the more enmeshed fantasy and reality can become.

• Grounding techniques and acceptance commitment therapy may be a useful treatment recommendation for individuals that experience offence related fantasy.

Discussion is augmented within contemporary theoretical perspectives in order to consider clinical implications. Limitations of the current thesis and recommendations for future research are also outlined.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DForenPsy)
Supervisors: Duff, S.C.
Keywords: Sexual fantasy, Personality, Internal mental models, High risk situations, Sexual offending
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: 32714
Depositing User: Sowemimo, Sade
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2016 12:59
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2018 00:44

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