Skip to main content

First Report of the Collaborative Outcome Data Project on the Effectiveness of Psychological Treatment for Sex Offenders

Abstract

This meta-analytic review examined the effectiveness of psychological treatment for sex offenders by summarizing data from 43 studies (combined n = 9,454). Averaged across all studies, the sexual offence recidivism rate was lower for the treatment groups (12.3%) than the comparison groups (16.8%, 38 studies, unweighted average). A similar pattern was found for general recidivism, although the overall rates were predictably higher (treatment 27.9%, comparison 39.2%, 30 studies). Current treatments (cognitive–behavioral, k = 13; systemic, k = 2) were associated with reductions in both sexual recidivism (from 17.4 to 9.9%) and general recidivism (from 51 to 32%). Older forms of treatment (operating prior to 1980) appeared to have little effect. Future directions for improving the quality of sex offender treatment outcome evaluations are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  • Abracen, J., Looman, J., & Nicholaichuk, T. (1999). Recidivism among treated sexual offenders and matched comparison subjects: Data from the Regional Treatment Centre (Ontario) post-1989 sample. Unpublished manuscript, Regional Treatment Centre, Correctional Service of Canada, Kingston, Ontario.

    Google Scholar 

  • Alexander, M. (1999). Sexual offender treatment efficacy revisited. Sexual Abuse: AJournal of Research and Treatment, 11, 101-116.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Allam, J. (1998). Community-based treatment for sex offenders: An evaluation. Birmingham, U.K.: University of Birmingham.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Allam, J. (1999). Effective practice in work with sex offenders: A re-conviction study comparing treated and untreated offenders. West Midlands Probation Service Sex Offender Unit. (Available from Jayne Allam WMPS SOU, 826 Bristol Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham, West Midlands, B29 6NA)

  • Andrews, D. A., Zinger, E., Hoge, R. D., Bonta, J., Gendreau, P., & Cullen, F. T. (1990). Does correctional treatment work? A clinically-relevant and psychologically informed meta-analysis. Criminology, 28, 369-404.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Bakker, L., Hudson, S., Wales, D., & Riley, D. (1999). “And there was light”: An evaluation of the Kia Marama Treatment Programme for New Zealand sex offenders against children. Unpublished report. New Zealand.

  • Bangert-Drowns, R. L., Wells-Parker, E., & Chevillard, I. (1997). Assessing the methodological quality of research in narrative reviews and meta-analyses. In K. J. Bryant, M. Windle, & S. G. West (Eds.), The science of prevention: Methodological advances from alcohol and substance abuse research (pp. 405-429). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barbaree, H. E. (1997). Evaluating treatment efficacy with sexual offenders: The insensitivity of recidivism studies to treatment effects. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 9, 111-128.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Barbaree, H. E., & Seto, M. C. (1998). The ongoing follow-up of sex offenders treated at the Warkworth Sexual Behaviour Clinic. Research Report prepared for the Correctional Service of Canada. [Warkworth]

  • *Barnes, J. M., & Peterson, K. D. (1997). The Kentucky Sex Offender Treatment Program. Commonwealth of Kentucky, Justice Cabinet, Department of Corrections, Division of Mental Health. Kentucky State Reformatory, Kentucky.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Berlin, F. S., Hunt, W. P., Malin, M. H., Dyer, A., Lehne, G. K., & Dean, S. (1991). A five-year plus follow-up survey of criminal recidivism within a treated cohort of 406 pedophiles, 111 exhibitionists and 109 sexual aggressives: Issues and outcomes. American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 12(3), 5-28.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Berliner, M. L., Schram, D., Miller, L. L., & Milloy, C. D. (1995). A sentencing alternative for sex offenders: A study of decision making and recidivism. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 10(4), 487-502. [Washington]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Bluglass, R. (1980). Indecent exposure in the West Midlands. In D. West (Ed.), Sex offenders in the criminal justice system (pp. 171-180). Cambridge: Cambridge Institute of Criminology.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Borduin, C. M., Henggeler, S. W., Blaske, D. M., & Stein, R. J. (1990). Multisystemic treatment of adolescent sexual offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 34, 105-113.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Borduin, C. M., Schaeffer, C. M., & Heilblum, N. (2000, May). Multi-systemic treatment of juvenile sexual offenders: A progress report. Paper presented at the 6th International Conference on the Treatment of Sexual Offenders, Toronto.

  • *Bremer, J. F. (1992). Serious juvenile sex offenders: Treatment and long-term follow-up. Psychiatric Annals, 22(6), 326-332.

    Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, D. T., & Stanley, J. C. (1966). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research. Chicago: Rand McNally.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Clelland, S. R., Studer, L. H., & Reddon, J. R. (1998). Follow-up report of rapists treated in a forensic psychiatric hospital. Violence and Victims, 13(1), 79-86. [Alberta Hospital]

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, H., & Hedges, L. V. (Eds.). (1994). The handbook of research synthesis. New York: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • *CS/RESORS. (1991). An evaluation of community sex offender programs in the Pacific Region (No.21803-0-A602/01-XSB). Vancouver, BC: Author.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Davidson, P. R. (1984, January). Behavioural treatment for incarcerated sex offenders: Post-release outcome. Paper presented at the Sex Offender Assessment and Treatment Conference, Kingston, ON. [RTC Ontario]

  • *Dwyer, S. M. (1997). Treatment outcome study: Seventeen years after sexual offender treatment. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 9(2), 149-160. [Dwyer]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Earls, C. M. (1997). Étude sur la récidive. Clinique La Macaza Bulletin d'information, 2(1), 1-2. [La Macaza]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Earls, C. M., Martin, I., & Bélanger, H. (October 18, 1999). La Macaza outcome study. Unpublished raw data. [La Macaza]

  • *Evaluation of sex offender rehabilitation programs in the state of Florida. (1977). Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. Mental Health Program Office, Talahassee, FL. [Florida]

  • Fleiss, J. L. (1994). Measures of effect size for categorical data. In H. Cooper & L. V. Hedges (Eds.), The handbook of research synthesis (pp. 245-260). New York: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Friendship, C., & Thornton, D. (2001). Sexual reconviction for sexual offenders discharged from prison in England and Wales. British Journal of Criminology, 41, 285-292.

    Google Scholar 

  • Furby, L., Weinrott, M. R., Blackshaw, L. (1989). Sex offender recidivism: A review. Psychological Bulletin, 105, 3-30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gallagher, C. A., Wilson, D. B., Hirschfield, P., Coggeshall, M. B., & MacKenzie, D. L. (1999). A quantitative review of the effects of sex offender treatment on sexual reoffending. Corrections Management Quarterly, 3, 19-29.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Gordon, A., & Packard, R. (1998). The impact of community maintenance treatment on sex offender recidivism. Paper presented at the 17th annual meeting of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, Vancouver, BC. [Twin Rivers]

  • *Guarino-Ghezzi, S., & Kimball, L. M. (1998). Juvenile sex offenders in treatment. Corrections Management Quarterly, 2(1), 45-54.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Hall, G. C. N. (1995a). The preliminary development of theory-based community treatment for sexual offenders. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 26(5), 478-483.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hall, G. C. N. (1995b). Sexual offender recidivism revisited: A meta-analysis of recent treatment studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 63, 802-809.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hanson, R. K. (1997). How to know what works with sexual offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 9, 129-145.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hanson, R. K. (2000). Treatment outcome and evaluation problems (and solutions). In D. R. Laws, S. M. Hudson, & A. Ward (Eds.), Remaking relapse prevention with sex offenders: A sourcebook (pp. 485-499). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hanson, R. K., & Bussièere, M. T. (1998). Predicting relapse: A meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 348-362.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Hanson, R. K., & Nicholaichuk, T. (2000). A cautionary note regarding Nicholaichuk et al. (2000). Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 12, 289-293. [Clearwater]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Hanson, R. K., Steffy, R. A., & Gauthier, R. (1992). Long-term follow-up of child molesters: Risk prediction and treatment outcome (User Report No. 1992-02). Ottawa: Corrections Branch, Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Hanson, R. K., Steffy, R. A., & Gauthier, R. (1993). Long-term recidivism of child molesters. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 646-652.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hanson, R. K., & Thornton, D. (2000). Improving risk assessments for sex offenders: A comparison of three actuarial scales. Law and Human Behavior, 24, 119-136.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harris, G. T., Rice, M. E., & Quinsey, V. L. (1998). Appraisal and management of risk in sexual aggression: Implications for criminal justice policy. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 4, 73-115.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hedges, L. V. (1994). Fixed effect models. In H. Cooper & L. V. Hedges (Eds.), The handbook of research synthesis (pp. 285-299). New York: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hedges, L. V., & Olkin, I. (1985). Statistical methods for meta-analysis. New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Hersh, K., Baldwin, K., & Gray-Little, B. (1999, September). Treatment completion and recidivism among incarcerated sex offenders. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, Orlando, FL.

  • *Huot, S. (1999, April). Minnesota study of sex offender recidivism. Unpublished data.

  • *Kramer, S. P. (1985). Sex offender treatment and tracking: Problems, perspectives and outcomes in the Utah criminal justice system. Unpublished manuscript.

  • *Lab, S. P., Shields, G., & Schondel, C. (1993). Research note: An evaluation of juvenile sexual offender treatment. Crime and Delinquency, 39(4), 543-553.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laws, D. R. (Ed.). (1989). Relapse prevention with sex offenders. New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Lindsay, W. R., Marshall, I., & Neilson, C. (1998). The treatment of men with a learning disability convicted of exhibitionism. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 19(4), 295-316.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Lindsay, W. R., Neilson, C. Q., & Morrison, F. (1998). The treatment of six men with a learning disability convicted of sex offences with children. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 37, 83-89.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Lindsay, W. R., & Smith, A. H. W. (1998). Response to treatment for sex offenders with intellectual disability: A comparison of men with 1-and 2-year probation sentences. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 42, 346-353.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Looman, J., Abracen, J., & Nickolaichuk, T. P. (2000). Recidivism among treated sexual offenders and matched controls: Data from the Regional Treatment Centre (Ontario). Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15, 279-290. [RTC Ontario]

    Google Scholar 

  • Lösel, F. (1995). The efficacy of correctional treatment: A review and synthesis of meta-evaluations. In J. McGuire (Ed.), What works: Reducing reoffending (pp. 79-114). Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mander, A. M., Atrops, M. E., Barnes, A. R., & Munafo, R. (1996). Sex offender treatment program: Initial recidivism study. Unpublished report, Alaska Department of Corrections Offenders Programs, Alaska Justice Statistical Analysis Unit Justice Center and University of Alaska, Achorage.

  • *Marques, J. K. (1999). How to answer the question, “Does sex offender treatment work?” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14(4), 437-451.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Marques, J. K., & Day, D. M. (May, 1998). Sex offender treatment evaluation project: Progress report (May, 1998). Sacramento, CA: California Department of Mental Health.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Marques, J. K., Day, D. M., Nelson, C., & West, M. A. (1993). Findings and recommendations from California's experimental treatment program. In G. C. N. Hall, R. Hirschman, J. R. Graham, & M. S. Zaragoza (Eds.), Sexual aggression: Issues in etiology, assessment and treatment (pp. 197-214). Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Marques, J. K., Day, D. M., Nelson, C., & West, M. A. (1994). Effects of cognitive–behavioral treatment on sex offenders recidivism: Preliminary results of a longitudinal study. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 21, 28-54.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Marshall, W. L., & Barbaree, H. E. (1988). The long-term evaluation of a behavioral treatment program for child molesters. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 26(6), 499-511.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Marshall, W. L., Eccles, A., & Barbaree, H. E. (1991). The treatment of exhibitionists: A focus on sexual deviance versus cognitive and relationship features. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29, 129-135.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Martin, I. (1998). Efficacité d'un programme cognitif-behavioural institutionnel pour délinquants sexuels. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Department of Psychology, University of Montreal. [La Macaza]

  • *McGrath, R. J., Hoke, S. E., & Vojtisek, J. E. (1998). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of sex offenders. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 25(2), 203-225.

    Google Scholar 

  • *McGuire, T. J. (2000). Correctional institution based sex offender treatment: A lapse behavior study. Behavioural Sciences and the Law, 18, 57-71.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Meyer, L. C., & Romero, J. (1980). A ten year follow-up of sex offender recidivism. Pennsylvania, PA: Joseph J. Peters Institute. [JJ Peters]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Miner, M., & Dwyer, S. M. (1995). Analysis of dropouts from outpatient sex offender treatment. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 7(3), 77-93. [Dwyer]

    Google Scholar 

  • *The Missouri Sexual Offender Program. (1989). Updated figures for Missouri sex offender study. Department of Corrections, Division of Classification and Treatment, Jefferson City, MO. [Missouri]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Mulloy, R., & Smiley, W. C. (1996). Recidivism and treated sex offenders. Paper presented at the International Congress of Psychologists, Montreal, QC. [RHC Pacific]

  • *Nicholaichuk, T. P. (1996). Sex offender treatment priority: An illustration of the risk/need principle. Forum on Corrections Research, 8(2), 30-32. [Saskatchewan]

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholaichuk, T., Gordon, A., Andre, G., & Gu, D. (1995). Outcome of the Clearwater Sex Offender Treatment Program: A matched comparison between treated and untreated offenders. Unpublished manuscript, Regional Psychiatric Centre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Nicholaichuk, T., Gordon, A., Gu, D., & Wong, S. (2000). Outcome of an institutional sexual offender treatment program: A comparison between treated and matched untreated offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 12, 139-153. [Clearwater]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Nutbrown, V., & Stasiak, E. (1987). Research monograph: A retrospective analysis of O.C.I. cost effectiveness 1977–1981. Ontario Correctional Institute, 2, 1-16.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Pellerin, B., Proulx, J., Ouimet, M., Paradis, Y., McKibben, A., & Aubut, J. (1996). Étude de la recidive post-traitement chez des aggresseurs sexuels judiciarises. Criminologie, 29, 85-108. [Pinel]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Perkins, D. (1987). A psychological treatment programme for sexual offenders. In B. J. McGurk, D. M. Thornton, & M. Williams (Eds.), Applying Psychology to Treatment: Theory & Practice (pp. 192-217). Her Majesty's Stationary Office, London.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Pierson, T. A. (1988). The Missouri Sexual Offender Program: Inmate Characteristics and Recidivism Analysis, 1984–1985 releases. Department of Corrections, Division of Classification and Treatment, Jefferson City, MO. [Missouri]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Proctor, E. (1996). A five-year outcome evaluation of a community-based treatment program for convicted sexual offenders run by the probation service. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 2, 3-16.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Proulx, J., Ouimet, M., Pellerin, B., Paradis, Y., McKibben, A., & Aubut, J. (1998). Posttreatment recidivism rates in sexual aggressors: A comparison between dropout and nondropout subjects (No. 98-22). Les cahiers de l'ecole de criminologie, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec. [Pinel]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Quinsey, V. L., Khanna, A., & Malcolm, P. B. (1998). A retrospective evaluation of the Regional Treatment Centre sex offender treatment program. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 13, 621-644. [RTC Ontario]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Rattenbury, F. R. (1986). The outcomes of hospitalized and incarcerated sex offenders: A study of offender types, recidivism rates, and identifying characteristics of the repeat offender. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, School of Loyola University of Chicago, IL.

    Google Scholar 

  • Redondo, A., Sánchez-Meca, J., & Garrido, V. (1999). The influence of treatment programmes on the recidivism of juvenile and adult offenders: An European meta-analytic review. Psychology, Crime and Law, 5, 251-278.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Report on treatment programs for sex offenders: Summary and recommendations. (1984). In conjunction with the Governor's Task Force on Sex Offenders and Their Victims, Florida Mental Health Institute, Tampa, FL. [Florida]

  • *Rice, M. E., Quinsey, V. L., & Harris, G. T. (1991). Sexual recidivism among child molesters released from a maximum security psychiatric institution. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59, 381-386.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Robinson, D. (1995). The impact of cognitive skills training on post-release recidivism among Canadian federal offenders (No. R-41). Ottawa, ON, Correctional Service Canada, Correctional Research and Development.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Romero, J. J., & Williams, L. M. (1983). Group psychotherapy and intensive probation supervision with sex offenders. Federal Probation, 47, 36-42. [JJ Peters]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Seto, M. C., & Barbaree, H. E. (1999). Psychopathy, treatment behavior, and sex offender recidivism. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14, 1235-1248. [Warkworth]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Sex offender programs: Program manuals, descriptions, evaluations, & research. (1998). Regional Health Centre (Pacific). [RHC Pacific]

  • *Sex offenses in Washington State: 1998 update. (1998). Washington State Institute for Public Policy, Olympia, WA. [Washington]

  • *Smiley, W. C., & Mulloy, R. (1995). Treatment of sex offenders: Does intervention work? Unpublished Manuscript. [RHC Pacific]

  • *Song, L., & Lieb, R. (1995). Washington state sex offenders: Overview of recidivism studies. Olympia, WA: Washington State Institute for Public Policy. [Twin Rivers; Washington]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Studer, L. H., & Reddon, J. R. (1998). Treatment may change risk prediction for sexual offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 10, 181. [Alberta Hospital]

    Google Scholar 

  • *Studer, L. H., Reddon, J. R., Roper, V., & Estrada, L. (1994). Sexual offender recidivism: An evaluation of the Pheonix program. Alberta Hospital, Edmonton, AB. [Alberta Hospital]

    Google Scholar 

  • Swenson, C. C., Henggeler, S. W., & Schoenwald, S. K. (2001). Family-based treatments. In C. R. Hollin (Ed.), Handbook of offender assessment and treatment (pp. 205-220). Chichester, U.K.: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • United States General Accounting Office. (1996). Sex offender treatment: Research results inconclusive about what works to reduce recidivism. Washington, DC: Author.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Walker, D. W. (2000). The treatment of adult male child molesters through group family intervention. In A. P. Colmenárez & R. H. Serrano (Eds.), Violencia (pp. 191-197). Caracas, Venezuela: Universidad Central de Venezuela.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wierzbicki, M., & Pekarik, G. (1993). A meta-analysis of psychotherapy drop-out. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 24, 190-195.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wille, R., & Beier, K. M. (1989). Castration in Germany. Annals of Sex Research, 2, 103-133.

    Google Scholar 

  • *Worling, J. R., & Curwen, T. (1998). The adolescent sexual offender project: A 10-year follow-up study. SAFE-T Program (Sexual Abuse: Family Education & Treatment) Thistletown Regional Centre for Children & Adolescents & Probation and Community Services, Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services: Toronto, ON.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hanson, R.K., Gordon, A., Harris, A.J.R. et al. First Report of the Collaborative Outcome Data Project on the Effectiveness of Psychological Treatment for Sex Offenders. Sex Abuse 14, 169–194 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014624315814

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014624315814

  • sex offender treatment
  • evaluation
  • recidivism
  • meta-analysis