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Comorbid Psychopathology and Reoffense Risk Across the Lifespan of Sexual Offenders (From Handbook of Sex Offender Treatment, P 47-1 - 47-13, 2011, Barbara K. Schwartz, ed. - See NCJ-243091)

NCJ Number
David P. Fago, Ph.D.
Date Published
13 pages
This chapter presents research that shows comorbid psychopathology is a prevalent problem for most clinical populations, including sexual offenders, with attention to its role in sexual reoffending.
The prevalence of comorbid psychopathology (co-existing adverse mental health conditions) in children, adolescents, and adults with diagnosed psychopathology has received considerable attention in recent years, emerging primarily from the publication of large, national comorbidity surveys; however, comorbidity has not received much attention from professionals working with sex offenders. Perhaps the single most common comorbidity that has been identified in sex offenders of all ages is a history of previous sexual victimization themselves. Some clinicians believe it is a primary pathway to future sexual offending. Other comorbidities that have been reported in varying frequencies among sex offenders include social-skill deficits and social phobia/social avoidance, peer rejection, mood disorder, substance abuse, and psychosis/thought disorder. A major section of this chapter addresses the impact of comorbid psychopathology on the life-course trajectory of sexual offending. This discussion concludes that data on comorbid psychopathology, particularly pathology that originates in biology and temperament, should assist in refining predictive models and the ability to differentiate the apparently small core of sex offenders who pose significant risk of reoffending. In drawing policy implications from this conclusion, the chapter advises that it is not yet clear which, if any, comorbid psychopathologies contribute to persistent sexual offending over the life course; however, currently available data should enable prosecutors, courts, and State correctional systems to do a better job of allocating resources so that the treatment of high-risk offenders has top priority. 3 tables and 62 references