Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 18, No. 2, April 2006 (
The Offence Process of Sex Offenders with
Intellectual Disabilities: A Qualitative Study
and Oliver Mason
Published online: 2 August 2006
There have been few attempts to build a model of sexual offending for men with
intellectual disabilities and hence clarify appropriate intervention. This study
examines any commonalities that characterize the offence process of such men.
Using a grounded theory approach, qualitative interviews with sex offenders with
intellectual disabilities are analyzed to generate a model of the offence process.
Data from qualitative interviews with clinicians is used to triangulate offender
participants’ data. The subsequent model highlights the importance of individual’s
attitudes and beliefs and the impact that they have at all stages of the offence
process. It raises issues concerning the variation in the process that is seen within
and between offences. Additionally, it identiﬁes a marked lack of awareness of any
“decency insult” in these offenders, an inability to empathize with society’s view
of sex offending. A clear implication is that thorough assessment and formulation
are likely to be the key to successful and appropriate intervention.
KEY WORDS: intellectual disabilities or learning disabilities or mental retardation; sexual offending;
offence model; grounded theory; qualitative research.
The sexual behavior of people with intellectual disabilities forms a consider-
able part of the work of professionals in this ﬁeld. However, there is an absence of
any clear model of offending and concomitant intervention for men with intellec-
tual disabilities who commit sexual offences. Despite this, a range of treatments
has been developed. Some have implicit models of behavior, others are based on
the assumption that “what works” for nondisabled sex offenders will also work
for those with intellectual difﬁculties.
Yellowhouse, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust.
School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Sub-Department of Clinical Health Psychology, University College London, London, United
To whom correspondence should be addressed at School of Psychology, University of Birmingham,
Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, United Kingdom; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.