Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Fickling, Melissa J.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


Sexual offending is a public concern and results in lasting detrimental effects. To prevent sexual offending, it is important to identify potential factors that increase an individual’s vulnerability to engage in sexual offending behaviors. Researchers have identified a general connection between early life experiences, specifically family-of-origin experiences, and later sexual offending behaviors. There is also an established agreement on the transmission of thoughts and beliefs present within a family unit on the development of thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors for a child as they age and into adulthood. Among individuals who offend sexually, implicit theories, the underlying beliefs that began to develop in early childhood about the world and potential victims are connected to offense-supportive cognitions that support an individual’s offending behaviors. Despite this common thread suggesting the impact of outside belief systems on sexual offending behaviors, specific literature exploring the family belief systems found in the early environments for individuals who perpetrate sexual offenses is limited. This qualitative study explored the lived experiences of ten cisgender men in outpatient treatment for sexual offending. Through one-on-one interviews that ranged in length from one to two hours, these men described their family-of-origin experiences, specifically the family of origin belief systems that they were exposed to as a youth. Following Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), findings indicated a broad range of early experiences for men who have sexually offended. Despite these diverse experiences, commonalities among the men’s perceptions of their exposure to family-of-origin belief systems and the meaning they made of these experiences emerged. These participants received messages from their parents about what is expected to be a good person in their parents’ eyes and the importance and expectations of how to be a valued member of the family by protecting the family, promoting a positive image of the family, following masculine ideals, and following the parents’ identified culture. Participants also experienced a common thread of missed opportunities for communication from parents, involvement from their father, emotional expression, and guidance about sex and sexuality. This exposure to family-of-origin belief systems impacted the participants’ relationships with their parents, their own belief system development, and potentially their later sexual offending behaviors. The rich findings that emerged from the lived experiences of the participants are presented in relation to current knowledge and future implications for the field and opportunities for future research.


362 pages




Northern Illinois University

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