Social cognition and sexual offending: A theoretical framework

Lucy Johnston, Tony Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Clinicians and researchers have noted the important rote of maladaptive beliefs and distorted thinking in facilitating or justifying sexual offenses. There have been a number of attempts to describe the nature of these beliefs and to develop ways of measuring them but in the absence of any integrating theory. It is our belief that an understanding of the cognitive processes underlying the initiation, maintenance, and justification of sexual offending is a vital prerequisite to the development of successful treatment programs. The present paper proposes the use of a social cognition framework in considering cognitive processes that may be important contributing factors in the propensity of some men to commit sexual offenses. Pertinent research in the social cognition domain, covering information processing, mental control, and the impact of affective and motivational factors on cognitive processes, is described and related to the sexual offending literature. Implications for clinical practice and suggestions for future research are highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-80
Number of pages26
JournalSexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


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