Imprisoned Sex Offenders’ Chronic Denial and their Childhood Family Environment

Olivia Davids1, Marcel Londt*, 1, Lizane Wilson2
1 Department of Social Work, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
2 Centre for Child Youth and Family Studies, North-West University, Potchefstroom (Wellington) Campus, South Africa

© 2015 Davids

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distributin, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Social Work, Private Bag x17 Bellville University of the Western Cape, South Africa; Tel: 27(21) 959 2277; E-mail:


Statistics in South Africa shows that sex offences are among the crimes that invoke the most public concern as anywhere else in the world. The number of sentenced sex offenders is increasing and denial by the sex offender is regarded as a risk factor for re-offending. Sex offenders who chronically deny their offenses are not only perceived as having a greater likelihood of recidivism, but additional questions about their childhood experiences and their experiences in their families of origin are also raised. This study described the family environment of non-admitting sex offenders and explored whether any family characteristics influenced their denial of the sexual offence. Qualitative research was applied and ten (10) incarcerated, non-admitting sex offenders were purposively selected from a Correctional Facility in the Western Cape. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants and Social Learning Theory was used as a lens to understand the dynamics. The findings of this study highlighted that most participants were raised in single-parent households with absent father figures, which had implications for their masculine identities and roles. These families were characterized by challenges such as domestic violence, substance abuse, unsatisfactory support and compromised parenting styles.

Keywords: Depersonalization, dynamic risk factor, family environment, masculinity, minimization, non-admitting sex offenders, Permissive parenting style, sex offenders.