The impact of science-based knowledge on attitudes towards sex offenders


  • Nicole Peulen



Background. The general public often holds negative attitudes towards sex offenders, which could result in an exclusion of sex offenders from society. Since lack of social support is a known risk factor for relapse, it is highly desirable that interventions target to reduce the negativity of attitudes against sex offenders. Therefore, the current study aims at exploring the effectiveness of an intervention based on the provision of in-depth scientific knowledge on existing attitudes and degree of dehumanization towards sex offenders in undergraduates that are expected to work with sex offenders in their future careers. Methods. A non-randomized experimental study was conducted, involving an experimental group (n = 9) and a control group (n = 5). In a pre- and posttest measurement participants’ attitudes and degree of dehumanization towards sex offenders were measured. During the interval, the experimental group took a four-week course about sex offending, wherein in-depth scientific knowledge was provided, whereas the control group received no scientific information. Comparisons were made between the attitudes towards sex offenders, and between the degree of dehumanization towards sex offenders, between the pre- and post-test measurement within and between the participant groups. Results. A significant difference was found for attitudes between the pre- and post-test measurement within the experimental group. The degree of dehumanization towards sex offenders has not decreased during the intervention within both participant groups. Conclusion. This study suggests that in-depth scientific knowledge has a positive influence on attitudes towards sex offenders, but not on the degree of dehumanization in future professionals within the field of forensics and psychology. However, the study’s small sample size suggests for more extensive research on the subject. Nevertheless, the present findings provide a method for the improvement of treatment and rehabilitation of sex offenders by influencing impeding, negative attitudes.


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