Exploring criminogenic need through victim apology letters II: an IPA analysis of post‐treatment accounts of offending against children

Publication Date10 Oct 2011
AuthorSimon Duff
SubjectHealth & social care,Sociology
Exploring criminogenic need through victim
apology letters II: an IPA analysis of
post-treatment accounts of offending
against children
Simon Duff
Purpose – Building on previous work, concerned with analysis of pre-treatment apology letters of men
who have offended against children, the current research focuses on post-treatment apology letters of
the same group of men.
Design/methodology/approach – A total of 26 post-treatment apology letters of men who attended a
community-based introductory sex offender treatment programme were analysed using interpretative
phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore how the men conceptualise and understand themselves,
their behaviour and their victims after treatment.
Findings – The data suggest that the men express themselves in terms of need, however, primarily this
is in terms of pro-social needs, such as a need for forgiveness, rather than in terms of criminogenic
need. The one theme identifiable as a criminogenic need is concerned with sexual needs and very little
detail is provided that might explain if the need is not otherwise being met; if there is a sexual preference
for children, etc. Thus, from these data, it is not possible to identify a specific target need for treatment
related to sexual behaviour.
Originality/value – The results raise the question as to whether criminogenic need is the correct level of
analysis for thinking about sexual offending and if treatment programmes that use the language of
criminogenic need are an appropriate conceptual fit. The identification of pro-social needs suggests
that interventions may need to include work on what Ward and colleagues have referredto as ‘ ‘personal
strivings’’ in order to have a greater impact on victim empathy.
Keywords Criminogenic need, Victim apology letters, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis,
Pro-social needs, Personal needs, Children (age groups)
Paper type Research paper
The concept of criminogenic need identifies factors that are dynamic and potentially
changeable as being the focus of interventions for men who have sexually offended against
children and may impact upon recidivism (Andrews et al., 1990). Various authors suggest
that a goal for treatment programmes is identifying needs (Andrews et al., 1990; Simourd,
2004) and reducing them if a programme is to be effective (Bonta et al., 2001). The success of
this approach has been demonstrated in studies measuring criminogenic need, showing that
the extent of an individual’sneed is predictive of recidivism (Motiuk, 1993; Motiuk et al., 1986;
Simourd, 2004).
That treatment programmes for sexual offenders are developing a unified theoretical and
empirical basis is an important step for the purposes of programme success and having a
scientific understanding of offending. The current breadth of theories and approaches make
for a confusing landscape for the theoretician or clinician and the ability to knit the various
theories together would be of benefit for assessment of risk and developing appropriate
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VOL.3 NO. 4 2011, pp.230-242, QEmerald Group Publishing Limit ed, ISSN 1759-6599 DOI 10.1108/17596591111187756
Simon Duff is based in the
Institute of Work, Health &
Organisations, University
of Nottingham,
Nottingham, UK.
The author would like to thank
his colleagues at the forensic
service for their support and
insightsand a numberof D. Clin.
trainees and former colleagues
in clinical psychology,
University of Liverpool, who
became unwitting sources of
grounding and inspiration
during the analysis.

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