Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 16, No. 4, October 2004 (
The Etiology of Risk: A Preliminary Model
and Anthony R. Beech
The purpose of this paper is to describe an approach that links risk-assessment and
theory-directed research. Here we describe a theoretical underpinning to current
notions of dynamic risk assessment. The paper has two facets. First, the reframing
of a number of concepts such as (i). stable dynamic factors that we note would
be better described as traits and hence have a grounding in the extant general
psychological literature on trait theory, (ii). static risk factors that can be viewed
as historical markers of the same underlying psychological dispositions measured
by stable dynamic risk factors; (iii). acute risk factors that are better described as
triggering/contextual risk factors (iv). acute risk factors that should be deﬁned as
the state expression of traits triggered by triggering/contextual risk factors. And
second, the description of an etiological model of risk- model taking into account
the interaction between signiﬁcant learning events (i.e., developmental variables),
psychological vulnerabilities (i.e., marked by static/historical variables and/or
stable dynamic risk factors), contextual or triggering factors and their convergence
in offense-related acute dynamic risk (i.e., acute psychological states).
KEY WORDS: attachment; abuse history; static risk; dynamic risk; stable dynamic risk; acute
dynamic risk; sexual offender(s); theories of sexual offending.
The major purpose of this paper is to link two related clinical domains in
order to further both risk-assessment and theory-directed research. Typically de-
velopers of risk-assessment instruments have identiﬁed a number of risk factors in
offenders’ histories. They then devise ways of coding the presence of these factors
to arrive at a score for an individual, which gives a likelihood of reconviction
for a sexual offense over some speciﬁed follow-up period. Most risk prediction
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
University of Birmingham, UK.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at School of Psychology, Victoria University of
Wellington, P.O. Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation