Implicit theories in high secure male child sexual offenders with a mental disorder

Mannix, Karyn (2010) Implicit theories in high secure male child sexual offenders with a mental disorder. DClinPsy thesis, University of Lincoln.

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Item Type:Thesis (DClinPsy)
Item Status:Live Archive


There is an abundance of research on the aetiology and maintenance of child
sexual offending and many factors have been proposed as being influential,
including distorted cognitions. These are the focus of this study, in particular, the
underlying implicit theories thought to generate them. Ward and Keenan (1999)
hypothesised that child sexual offenders hold five distinct implicit theories which
account for the majority of their cognitive distortions, and which they use to make
predictions about the meaning of children’s behaviour and underlying desires and
intentions. These include Children as Sexual Beings, Nature of Harm,
Uncontrollability, Dangerous World and Entitlement. However, it is unclear at the
present time whether child sexual offenders with a mental disorder have similar or
different cognitions which may have influenced their offending. This aim of the
current study was to explore this.
Semi structured interviews eliciting cognitions were carried out with 12 adult male
high secure child sexual offenders. Content analysis indicated that the majority of
the cognitive distortions exhibited by this sample of men could be categorized
within Ward and Keenan’s (1999) five implicit theories. Evidence of a possible new
implicit theory representing deviant sexual interest in children, Children as Sexually
Attractive, was also found. Additionally, child sexual offenders whose offending
appeared to be associated with intimacy deficits were not felt to be adequately
captured under the Dangerous World implicit theory, and the theme of ‘Lonely
World’ was felt to be more suitable to represent this group of men. Diagnosis did
not impact upon the presence of implicit theories although content differences were
found. Participants with a diagnosis of personality disorder (n = 5; 100%) more
commonly articulated cognitions associated with the Children as Sexual Beings
implicit theory and reported deviant sexual interest in children. In comparison,
participants with a diagnosis of mental illness reported beliefs associated with the
Uncontrollability implicit theory (n = 5; 100%), and only two men made reference to
symptoms of their mental illness.
These preliminary findings appear to support previous studies identifying cognitions
and personality as risk factors to sexual offending in men, irrespective of diagnosis.
It can be concluded from this that psychosis alone is not a sufficient motivator for
sexual offending and cognition appears to play an influential role. This is
particularly relevant to those with a mental illness as the majority of research into
their sexual offending up to now has mostly focused on the role of psychosis. In
terms of assessment and treatment, these findings primarily suggest that implicit
theories should be addressed in therapy rather than focusing solely on their surface
level cognitive distortions, regardless of diagnosis. Further research is necessary in
order to advance understanding of implicit theories in child sexual offenders with a
mental disorder before any treatment and assessment tools can be adequately
developed. Additionally, future research will build on the limited theories and
typologies, particularly for those with a mental illness, which in turn should help to
advance the assessment, formulation and treatment of these offenders.

Additional Information:A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Lincoln for the degree of Doctorate in Clinical Psychology
Keywords:Sexual offenders, Child sexual offenders, Mental Disorders, Implicit theories, Cognitive disorders, High secure
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
Relation typeTarget identifier
ID Code:17548
Deposited On:29 May 2015 15:06

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