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Assessing female sexual offenders' motivations and cognitions: an exploratory study

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Semi-structured interviews eliciting cognitions and motivations were carried out with 15 incarcerated female child sexual abusers (nearly 50% of the current UK female sexual offender prison population). Qualitative analysis indicated that four of the five motivational schemas (implicit theories) suggested by Ward (Ward, 2000; Ward & Keenan, 1999) to underlie male sexual offenders' cognitions could be clearly identified in women, these were: Uncontrollability (UN, identified in 87% of participants), Dangerous world (DW, 53%), Children as sexual objects (CSO, 47%) and Nature of harm (NH, 20%). Entitlement, the final implicit theory (IT), commonly found in males, was not identified in any participants in the sample. Further analysis indicated that there were four main motivational types of offender based on combinations of these ITs. These were: (1) presence of DW/CSO, indicating sexual motivation and cognitions with fear of violence; (2) presence of DW/no CSO, indicating fear of violence with no sexual cognition or motivation; (3) presence of CSO/no DW, indicating sexual motivation and cognition; the NH IT also strongly featured in this group; and (4) presence of UN/no DW or CSO, indicating lack of control, sometimes with sense of protection for the victim. Suggestions are made on how the results can inform theoretical developments in the field as well as policy and practice.
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Keywords: cognitive distortions; female sexual offenders; implicit theories; motivations

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK 2: Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK,Psychology Department, HMP Foston Hall, Derbyshire, UK 3: School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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