Religious Affiliations Among Adult Sexual Offenders

  • Donna EshuysEmail author
  • Stephen Smallbone
Original Article


This article examines associations between self-reported religious affiliations and official offense histories among 111 incarcerated adult male sexual offenders. Four categories of religiosity were devised according to self-reported continuities and discontinuities in life-course religious affiliations: atheists, dropouts, converts, and stayers. ANCOVAs indicated that stayers (those who maintained religious involvement from childhood to adulthood) had more sexual offense convictions, more victims, and younger victims, than other groups. Results challenge assumptions that religious involvement should, as with other crime, serve to deter sexual offending behavior. Results are discussed in terms of social control and situational theories of crime.


Sexual offenders Religiosity Social control theory 



The assistance of the Queensland Department of Corrective Services is gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Department.


  1. Adam, E. (1998). Echoes of Nalinika: A monk in the dock. Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 5.Google Scholar
  2. Agnew, R. (1985). Social control theory and delinquency: A longitudinal test. Criminology, 23, 47–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alarid, L. F., Burton, V., & Cullen, F. T. (2000). Gender and crime among felony offenders: Assessing the generality of social control and differential association theories. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 37, 171–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Albrecht, S., Chadwick, B., & Alcorn, D. (1977). Religiosity and deviance: Application of an attitude-behavior contingent consistency model. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 16, 263–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Allport, G. W., & Ross, J. M. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, 432–443.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baier, C. J., & Wright, B. R. (2001). If you love me, keep my commandments: A meta-analysis of the effect of religion on crime. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38, 3–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Benda, B., & Corwyn, R. F. (1997). Religion and delinquency: The relationship after considering family and peer influences. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 36, 81–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Benda, B. B. (2002). Religion and violent offenders in boot camp: A structural equation model. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 39, 91–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blair, K. (1999). New clergy screened more tightly. Anglican Journal, 1 October, 6–7.Google Scholar
  10. Cochran, J., & Akers, R. (1989). Beyond hellfire: An exploration of the variable effects of religiosity on adolescent marijuana and alcohol use. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 26, 198–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cochran, J. K., Wood, P. B., & Arneklev, B. J. (1994). Is the religiosity-delinquency relationships spurious? A test of arousal and social control theories. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 31, 92–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Durkheim, E. (1951). Suicide. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  13. Eden, A. (2002). Orthodox Rabbi issues warning on sexual abuse. Forward, 3 May, 4–5.Google Scholar
  14. Ellis, L., & Peterson, J. (1996). Crime and religion: An international comparison among thirteen industrial nations. Personality and Individual Differences, 20, 761–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Evans, T. D., Cullen, F., Burton, V. S., Dunway, R. G., Payne, G. L., & Kethineni, S. R. (1996). Religion, social bonds and delinquency. Deviant Behavior, 17, 43–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fulton, A. S. (1997). Identity status, religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 26, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gearing, A., & Griffith, C. (2003). Governor General to face new claim on priest. The Courier Mail, 28 July, 1–2.Google Scholar
  18. Gross-Schaefer, A. (2001). Rabbi Sexual Misconduct: Crying out for a communal response. The Reconstructionist: A Journal of Contemporary Jewish Thought and Practice, 63.Google Scholar
  19. Hanson, R. K. (2002). Recidivism and age: Follow-up data from 4673 sexual offenders. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17, 1046–1062.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hirschi, T., & Stark, R. (1969, 2002). Hellfire and Delinquency. In J. Laub (Eds.), The craft of criminology: Selected papers of Travis Hirschi. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 91–104.Google Scholar
  21. Johnson, B. R., Sung Joon, J., Larson, D. B., & De Li, S. (2001). Does adolescent religious commitment matter? A re-examination of the effects of religiosity on delinquency. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38, 22–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kalichman, C. S. (1991). Psychopathology and personality characteristics of criminal sexual offenders as a function of victim age. Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 20, 187–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1997). A longitudinal study of changes in religious beliefs and behavior as a function of individual differences in adult attachment style. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 35, 207–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Longshore, D., Chang, E., Hsieh, S., & Messina, N. (2004). Self-control and social bonds: A combined control perspective on deviance. Crime and Delinquency, 50, 542–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Piquero, N. L., & Benson, M. L. (2004). White-collar crime and criminal careers: Specifying a trajectory of punctuated situational offending. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 20, 148–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Plante, T. G. (1999). Bless me Father for I have sinned: Perspectives on sexual abuse committed by Roman Catholic priests. Santa Clara, CA: Santa Clara U.Google Scholar
  27. Plante, T. G., & Daniels, C. (2004). The sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic church: What psychologists and counselors should know. Pastoral Psychology, 52, 381–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Regnerus, M. D. (2003). Linked lives, faith, and behavior: Intergenerational religious influence on adolescent delinquency. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42, 189–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rodarmor, W. (1983). The secret life of Swami Muktanana. Coevolution Quarterly, 40, 104–111.Google Scholar
  30. Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1990). Crime and deviance over the life course: The salience of adult social bonds. American Sociological Review, 55, 609–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (2004). A general age-graded theory of crime lessons learned and the future of life-course criminology. Advances in Criminological Theory, 13, 1–13.Google Scholar
  32. Saradjian, A., & Nobus, D. (2003). Cognitive distortions of religious professionals who sexually abuse children. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18, 905–923.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Sevig, J. (2002). Crossing boundaries. The Lutheran, 15, 16–17.Google Scholar
  34. Smallbone, S. W., & Wortley, R. (2000). Child sexual abuse in Queensland: Offender characteristics and modus operandi. Brisbane: Queensland Crime Commission.Google Scholar
  35. Smith, C. S. (2003). Theorizing religious effects among American adolescents. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42, 17–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Soothill, K., Francis, B., Sanderson, B., & Ackerley, E. (2000). Sex offenders: Specialists, generalists or both? A 32 year criminological study. British Journal of Criminology, 40, 56–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeGriffith UniversityQueenslandAustralia

Personalised recommendations