Project Information

Project title
Seeking a Good Life: Human Goods and Sexual Offending
Mayumi Purvis (University of Melbourne), supervised by Professor Tony Ward
Postal address
C/O Department of Criminology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, 3010.
Project dates
Commenced March 2002
Completed April 2006
Nature of the project
PhD Thesis (Criminology)
Brief description

This project is concerned with the aetiology of child sexual offending and in doing so, is also concerned with the rehabilitation of child sexual offenders. Aetiology informs rehabilitation in the sense that it directs treatment to target what we (as a research community) perceive to be the causes of sexual offending. In terms of our current approach to sex offender rehabilitation, the risk-needs model has produced extremely modest treatment outcomes with regard to reducing recidivism. In particular, the focus on risk management has led to a conceptualisation of offenders' needs as dynamic risk factors that can be identified, measured, targeted and diminished.

Within the risk management approach there is no genuine regard for the importance of offenders' psychological needs, which if met could increase an offender's self-esteem, well-being and happiness. Therefore the purpose of this study is to use the Good Lives Model of Offender Rehabilitation to contribute to a broader understanding of aetiology, which in turn would lead to a broadening of treatment goals in our rehabilitative efforts. The Good Lives Model is a more holistic, strength-based approach, which is concerned with improving the offender's quality of life rather than just teaching offenders how to avoid incarceration. Although the Good Lives Model is an alternative approach to offender rehabilitation, improving in many respects upon the dominant risk management approach, it does agree that the primary aim of rehabilitation should be to reduce offending.

However, it argues that this is best achieved by taking a more holistic and constructive approach to rehabilitation through enabling offenders to live better lives (i.e. good lives) as opposed to merely targeting specific factors believed to lead to offending and not making any truly positive changes to the offender's life. The GLM is a theory of rehabilitation, not of aetiology, however, it does make aetiological assumptions about why men sexually offend, so it is the purpose of this study to test those aetiological assumptions and see if they do apply. The end result, I hope, is an improved conceptualisation of the causes of sexual offending, which can then be used to improve our rehabilitative approach and subsequently, our treatment outcomes.