Exploring criminogenic need through victim apology letters: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Date14 April 2010
Published date14 April 2010
AuthorSimon Duff
33Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research • Volume 2 Issue 2 • April 2010 © Pier Professional Ltd
In order to provide effective intervention for
individuals who sexually offend against children,
it is essential to understand the basis for their
offending behaviour. Previous approaches
concerned with identifying intervention
packages that work (eg. Cooke & Philip, 2000)
have suggested that one of the principles for
developing successful interventions is that of
targeting ‘need’. Indeed, Simourd (2004) has
stated that the use of measures identifying need
are ‘particularly useful in guiding the delivery of
rehabilitation services and measuring change
(p307); and Andrews et al (1990) suggest that,
if reduction in the chances of recidivism is an
ultimate goal, the more effective services are
those that set reduced criminogenic need as
intermediate target of service’ (p20). In simple
terms, this requires that the dynamic, potentially
changeable factors that underlie an individual’s
offending (their ‘needs’) are identified, and
then these factors can become the focus for
The concept of ‘need’ here refers to both
non-criminogenic and criminogenic need
(Andrews & Bonta, 1994), the latter defined
as those factors, particular to an individual,
which lead to offending; for example, aspects
of lifestyle (eg. drug use), cognition and
personality (see Ward & Stewart, 2003). To
contextualise this, non-criminogenic needs
might include factors such as needing a place
to work or needing a place to live (Andrews
Exploring criminogenic
need through victim apology
letters: an interpretative
phenomenological analysis
Simon Duff
Lecturer/Research Tutor, Division of Clinical Psychology, University of Liverpool, UK
The concept of criminogenic need is widely used, both to understand offending behaviour
and in the design of treatment programmes. However, it is recognised that criminogenic
need may differ dependent upon the nature of the offending, the cultural context and the
specific forensic population. In order to develop programmes that successfully effect change
in offenders, it is important to identify the factors that may be implicated in offending and
to target these factors. This research explores the criminogenic needs of a group of men
attending a community-based introductory sex offender programme, through their victim
apology letters, using interpretative phenomenological analysis. The data suggest that these
men do not understand themselves or their behaviour in terms of criminogenic need, for the
most part, and the implications for this are considered.
Criminogenic need; victim apology letters; interpretative phenomenological analysis; sexual
offending against children.

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