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Cognition in Rapists: Theoretical Patterns by Typological Breakdown

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume: 6 Issue: 5 Dated: September-October 2001 Pages: 499-518
Calvin M. Langton; W. L. Marshall
Date Published
September 2001
20 pages
This paper uses a multifaceted approach to examine cognitive processes involved in the sexually assaultive behavior of the various types of rapists identified by Knight and Prentky in 1990.
A number of recent theoretical and empirical papers have implicated cognitive processing in sexual offending. Clinicians have emphasized the need to challenge the cognitive distortions that sex offenders often exhibit. They have incorporated cognitive restructuring components into treatment programs. However, until recently, the literature has lacked an integrative theoretical approach to cognition in sex offenders. In addition, the use of generic classifications such as rapist and child molester in both theoretical and empirical work has obscured understanding of the role of a number of causal factors, including cognition. This analysis begins with an overview of a framework of cognition. It next considers the heterogeneity of rapists and the problems this heterogeneity presents for research. The taxonomic model developed by Knight and Prentky is useful. This model divides rapists into four categories according to their general motivation to rape: opportunistic, pervasively angry, sexual, and vindictive. Each type has potential cognitive distortions. Using this framework will avoid obscuring the distinctive features present in a heterogeneous grouping of sex offenders and should encourage the development and use of treatment interventions that are more specifically directed toward areas requiring attention in these rapist subtypes. Table and 97 references (Author abstract modified)