Assessing female sexual offenders' motivations and cognitions: an exploratory study

Anthony Beech, N Parrett, T Ward, Dawn Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Citations (Scopus)


Semi-structured interviews eliciting cognitions and motivations were carried out with 15 incarcerated female child sexual abusers (nearly 50% of the current UK female sexual offender prison population). Qualitative analysis indicated that four of the five motivational schemas (implicit theories) suggested by Ward (Ward, 2000; Ward Keenan, 1999) to underlie male sexual offenders' cognitions could be clearly identified in women, these were: Uncontrollability (UN, identified in 87% of participants), Dangerous world (DW, 53%), Children as sexual objects (CSO, 47%) and Nature of harm (NH, 20%). Entitlement, the final implicit theory (IT), commonly found in males, was not identified in any participants in the sample. Further analysis indicated that there were four main motivational types of offender based on combinations of these ITs. These were: (1) presence of DW/CSO, indicating sexual motivation and cognitions with fear of violence; (2) presence of DW/no CSO, indicating fear of violence with no sexual cognition or motivation; (3) presence of CSO/no DW, indicating sexual motivation and cognition; the NH IT also strongly featured in this group; and (4) presence of UN/no DW or CSO, indicating lack of control, sometimes with sense of protection for the victim. Suggestions are made on how the results can inform theoretical developments in the field as well as policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-216
Number of pages16
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • female sexual offenders
  • implicit theories
  • motivations
  • cognitive distortions


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