Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 18, No. 2, April 2006 (
What Do We Know About the Effect of Aging
on Recidivism Risk for Sexual Offenders?
Dennis M. Doren
Published online: 26 July 2006
Meta-analytic and multiple sample study ﬁndings indicate there is an overall in-
verse relationship between sexual offenders’ age at the time of their release from
incarceration and their sexual recidivism risk (Hanson, 2002; Hanson & Bussi
1998). Very recent studies, however, document limits to the generalizability of that
ﬁnding. This article attempts to integrate the new empirical results into a co-
herent picture concerning the relationship between aging and recidivism risk for
sexual offenders. The purpose is to determine the extent to which empirically-
based conclusions can be drawn about how to incorporate the issue of offender
age in sexual recidivism risk assessments. Overall, instead of ﬁnding straight-
forward conclusions of a practical nature, a series of study-speciﬁc conclusions
were found that were often mutually exclusive. Further analyses of existing data
were conducted in an attempt to tease out meaningful hypotheses concerning the
relationship between offender age and sexual recidivism. Numerous potentially
interacting variables were uncovered including participation in treatment, type
of risk measure used, type of sexual offender, jurisdiction, and even a different
measure of offender age. Implications of these ﬁndings are discussed.
KEY WORDS: age; aging; recidivism; risk assessment; high risk..
A common research ﬁnding is that sexual offenders’ age at release from
incarceration is inversely related to their sexual recidivism risk (cf., Hanson &
ere, 1998), at least for offenders at least 25 years old or older (Hanson,
2002). Until very recently, there has been little to dispute this empirical result.
The only question for people conducting risk assessments appeared to be how
to use this general ﬁnding in evaluating speciﬁc cases. For some practitioners, it
appeared they only needed to know the degree to which offender age mattered in
lowering risk, and if that degree varied depending on the offender’s offense history
(cf., Doren, 2002b).
Evaluation Unit, Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center, 301 Troy Drive, Madison, 53704, Wisconsin.
2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.