Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 17, No. 4, October 2005 (
Identifying Schemas in Child Molesters,
Rapists, and Violent Offenders
Rebecca J. Milner
and Stephen D. Webster
One focus of research concerning offending behavior has been the concept of
the cognitive distortion, although the importance of the need for research into
the underlying cognitive structures in offenders has been highlighted. This study
examined schemas in child molesters, rapists, and violent offenders, predicting
content differences in the offence-related schemas between these groups. In ac-
cordance with previous research, the prevalence of a “suspiciousness/hostility to
women” schema in rapists was predicted. Twelve rapists, twelve child molesters,
and twelve violent offenders incarcerated in a male maximum-security prison com-
pleted “Life Maps” (autobiographies) and the My Life questionnaire (R. E. Mann
& C. R. Hollin, 2001), both designed to indicate the presence of schemas. A con-
tent analysis template containing nine schemas was constructed and applied to the
Life Map data. Results showed a signiﬁcant difference in the prevalence of schema
type between the three groups. There was a prevalence of a “hostility/distrust of
women” schema in the rapists. Analysis of the My Life questionnaire revealed a
difference between violent offenders and rapists only. This study highlights the
need for further research into schemas with sexual and violent offenders.
KEY WORDS: schema identiﬁcation; child molesters; rapists; violent offenders.
There appears little doubt that maladaptive beliefs and distorted thinking play
an important role in the etiology of sexual offending (Ward, Louden, Hudson, &
Marshall, 1995). Although research into understanding cognition in sexual of-
fenders has traditionally focused on the concept of the offence-speciﬁc cognitive
Offending Behaviour Programmes Unit, HM Prison Service, London, England, United Kingdom.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at HM Prison Service, SOTP, Room 725, Abell House,
John Islip Street, London, England, United Kingdom; e-mail: email@example.com.
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.