Since his 1996 critical analysis of the Relapse Prevention model
with the late Stephen Hudson, Tony Ward has continued to observe
upon the state of understanding in our field (See his article with
Anthony Beech, this issue). More recently, he and a number of colleagues
actively developed their ideas, including within Laws, Hudson, & Ward’s
2000 Remaking Relapse Prevention with Sex Offenders: A Sourcebook and
Ward, Laws, & Hudson’s 2003 Sexual Deviance: Issues and Controversies.
Besides turning a critical eye towards Relapse Prevention (RP), Ward
and his colleagues have proposed and developed the Good Lives model
of treatment, and the Self-Regulation model of the offense and relapse
which itself is the title of a 2004 effort with James Bickley, Stephen
Webster, Dawn Fisher, Anthony Beech, and Hilary Eldridge.
Theories of Sexual Offending expands on many of the ideas outlined in
earlier works; what were sections are now chapters examining each area
with greater depth and breadth. The authors further develop their thoughts
in critiques on multi-factorial etiological theories such as those proposed
by Finkelhor, Marshall and Barbaree, Ward and Siegert, and Hall and Hirschman.
The authors also review current evolutionary theory as it pertains to
sexual offending. Each critique unfolds in a respectful yet incisive
manner, acknowledging the contribution of theories to the times in which
they appeared. Those professionals who have followed the development
of the Self-Management and Good Lives models will find further refinement
of these ideas and a deeper review of past and current ideas.
Perhaps anticipating questions on their methods, the authors first discuss
a range of scientific perspectives (e.g., the often different approaches
of theoreticians and experimental scientists) in order to explain their
approach, define many of their terms, and differentiate areas the areas
they explore (e.g., models versus theories). They next define the criteria
by which they assess numerous theories of sex offending. These include
predictive accuracy/empirical adequacy, internal coherence, external
consistency, unifying power, fertility for further inquiry, simplicity,
and explanatory depth.
The authors next distinguish between level I (multi-factorial),
Level II (single factor) and Level III (micro-level or offense process)
Beyond the multi-factorial theories mentioned above, the authors present
thoughtful and informative reviews of theories of cognitive distortions,
victim empathy, deviant sexual preferences, feminist perspectives on
child sexual abuse, intimacy deficits, and risk. The review of the
latter is particularly noteworthy for the authors’ advocacy of understanding
stable and acute risk factors in the context of traits and states. They
also review descriptive models such as RP and the Good Lives model, which
have been the source of much discussion in the field (and among ATSA
members) in recent years. While acknowledging that the Self-Regulation
model is newer and will likely need further refinement, the authors’ chief
criticism of the RP model is that it lacks both scope and theoretical
Ward and his colleagues next review various offense-process models
such as those offered by Polascheck, Ward et al, Carich, Freeman-Longo,
and others, concluding that although they can have an important role
in intervention, each would benefit from placing a greater emphasis
on stable dynamic factors for purposes of long-term change. They
note that an offender’s underlying predisposition to abuse is “only
obliquely reflected in the process itself” (p. 260).
Further reviews are made of the risk-need model, classification, the
DSM-IV, actuarial approaches, strength-based approaches, and theories
of treatment responsivity and readiness. Each in its turn receives a
thorough review, with some conclusions more obvious (e.g., current actuarial
scales do little to guide treatment) than others (e.g., understanding
offender readiness can add value to current perspectives on the responsivity
The authors conclude this volume with the beginnings of a unified
theory of sexual offending, which contains genetic and environmental
They argue that developmental resources – including genetic/evolutionary
resources, social/cultural resources, and the life circumstances of the
individual – are the substrate of an individual’s functioning.
Within this framework, a perception and memory system can form the foundation
of schemas and cognitive distortions. The authors further advocate understanding
cultural, social, and personal circumstances in an ecological sense,
consisting of habitat (where the individual resides) and niche (the individual’s
role[s] within the ecological community). Throughout an individual’s
development, the authors hypothesize that the above factors interact,
resulting in psychological functioning that contains a motivational/emotional
system, perception and memory, and action selection systems. The section
contains numerous references to earlier chapters to support the authors’ assertions.
Although not directly intended to guide clinical practice as a set
and don’ts,” each chapter contains a section on implications
for clinical practice. A key result is that practitioners will have an
exhaustive review enabling them to reconsider many of the field’s
older and preconceived notions. As they develop their arguments, the
authors provide clearer definitions of terms (e.g., sexual scripts)
and explain their ideas in a more accessible fashion than in their
works. Their emphasis on language, including re-casting life circumstances
in a helpful framework of ecology, and situating stable and acute factors
into a context of traits and states may be useful to professionals
attempting to come to terms with individuals.
As readers may have gathered, this is a dense but worthwhile book.
Despite the complexities and scope of the undertaking, the authors’ style
is concise, diligent, and respectful of those who have developed
theories before them. The chapters have a common format, adding a
layer of predictability
less apparent in their earlier sourcebooks. It provides an exhaustive
overview of much of our fields history.
Newcomers to the work of Ward, Polascheck, and Beech will find no
shortage of knowledge and information, much of it challenging. Those
with the authors will find new areas of exploration and can see how
they have developed their lines of reasoning. Of course, this book
is by no
means the final word on any of the theories reviewed. Many have reviewed
portions the same literature and come to different conclusions, calling
to mind the adage that “we all live under the same sky but see
different horizons.” Some will question whether the authors are
over-fitting their perspectives on other people’s data, while
others will find numerous avenues for further research and interpretation.
sets the work of these authors apart, however, is the enormity of the
undertaking and its potential to shape how front-line professionals
view this most perplexing and diverse population.