Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.664733
Title: Exploring the beliefs about sex and relationships held by sex offenders with an intellectual disability
Author: Mayes, D.
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2013
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Abstract:
This thesis aimed to enrich the existing research literature concerning sex offenders with an intellectual disability and to offer direct implications for the treatment of these individuals within the National Offender Management Service1 (NOMS). The thesis concerns the exploration of the beliefs about sex and relationships held by sex offenders who have an intellectual disability. Existing research literature indicates that this is an important and somewhat under-researched area. Indeed, we know that people with intellectual disabilities often experience impoverished or distorted sexual learning experiences and commonly lack knowledge or hold mistaken beliefs about sex and relationships. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that those who sexually offend often have sex education needs. Yet we know little about the nature of the beliefs about sex and relationships held by sex offenders with an intellectual disability beyond quantitative insights offered by comparative studies. This thesis comprises five empirical studies which aimed to address this research gap. All of the studies employed qualitative methodology and recruited participants from a UK prison. The first study aimed to develop and evaluate a method by which beliefs about sex and relationships held by sex offenders with an intellectual disability could be explored. To do so, an existing sex and relationship beliefs exercise was taken from a NOMS sex offender treatment programme and adapted so that it was suitable for use with individuals who had an intellectual disability. The result was a battery of seven vignettes (short hypothetical stories) depicting sexual and relationship scenarios which could be used to explore the respondent’s beliefs related to the scenarios. By using the vignettes with a sample of six sex offenders who had an intellectual disability, the study demonstrated that the vignettes were successfully eliciting participants’ beliefs about sex and relationships. Furthermore, the vignettes appeared to be sensitive to the participants’ needs by, for example, alleviating the risk of potential response bias such as acquiescence. The second study used the vignettes to explore the beliefs about sex and relationships held by a sample of 21 sex offenders with an intellectual disability. These participants were presented with the vignettes as part of a semi-structured interview and the resulting data were analysed using inductive thematic analysis. The study found that the beliefs expressed by participants were largely idiosyncratic, however, a range of belief themes were also identified. Most striking were themes relating to misunderstandings about female sexuality and beliefs which were conducive to a restrictive sexuality. The third study sought to explore the contexts in which sex offenders with an intellectual disability developed their beliefs about sex and relationships. The 21 participants from the previous study were asked to describe their relationships, sexual experiences and learning histories. Participants also offered an account of their sexual offence(s). The resulting data were analysed using a deductive thematic analysis which was informed by existing literature on learning about sex and relationships. The study found that these individuals often had impoverished learning experiences. With little or no formal sex education many had relied upon limited and, at times, distorted information sources to inform their beliefs such as friends, pornography or their own experiences. The study was also able to identify links between participants’ beliefs about sex and relationships and their experiences, including their sexual offending. Having noted the frequency of response behaviours employed by participants when responding to the vignettes, the fourth study aimed to explore the way in which participants interacted with the vignettes. Using inductive thematic analysis on data from study two, three themes of response behaviour were identified: drawing upon experience, placing oneself within the vignette and building the story. These findings offer insight into the way in which participants’ formed their beliefs but also further our understanding about the function of the vignette methodology. The study also highlighted the value in encouraging participants to engage in a kinaesthetic mode of responding as this appears to facilitate the activation of in-action beliefs which often differ from beliefs expressed from an objective position. The final study sought to bridge the academic findings of the thesis with clinical practice by recruiting staff who work with sex offenders who have an intellectual disability within Her Majesty’s Prison service to use the vignettes as a therapeutic tool. Two therapist-client participant pairs were recruited and each pair carried out an hour therapy session, working through the battery of vignettes. The results indicated that the vignettes represent a useful clinical tool for the exploration of beliefs about sex and relationships held by this client group. The study did, however, highlight the need for the vignettes to be tailored for each individual and for the therapist to be flexible and creative in their use of the vignettes in order to maximise responsivity. As well as offering several original contributions to the research literature on sex offenders with an intellectual disability, this thesis presents direct implications for the treatment of these individuals within NOMS. One such implication is the inclusion of the vignettes as an exercise within a new sex offender treatment programme within NOMS which is accessed by sex offenders who have an intellectual disability.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.664733  DOI: Not available
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