Predicting relapse: a meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1998 Apr;66(2):348-62. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.66.2.348.


Evidence from 61 follow-up studies was examined to identify the factors most strongly related to recidivism among sexual offenders. On average, the sexual offense recidivism rate was low (13.4%; n = 23,393). There were, however, subgroups of offenders who recidivated at high rates. Sexual offense recidivism was best predicted by measures of sexual deviancy (e.g., deviant sexual preferences, prior sexual offenses) and, to a lesser extent, by general criminological factors (e.g., age, total prior offenses). Those offenders who failed to complete treatment were at higher risk for reoffending than those who completed treatment. The predictors of nonsexual violent recidivism and general (any) recidivism were similar to those predictors found among nonsexual criminals (e.g., prior violent offenses, age, juvenile deliquency). Our results suggest that applied risk assessments of sexual offenders should consider separately the offender's risk for sexual and nonsexual recidivism.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Criminal Psychology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paraphilic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Paraphilic Disorders / psychology*
  • Paraphilic Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Patient Dropouts / psychology
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Offenses / prevention & control
  • Sex Offenses / psychology*
  • Violence / prevention & control
  • Violence / psychology