Moral Judgment, Cognitive Distortions and Implicit Theories in Young Sex Offenders

E.S. van Vugt, J. Hendriks, G.J. Stams, F.F. van Exter, C.C.J.H. Bijleveld, P.H. van der Laan, J.J. Asscher

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study focused on moral judgment, cognitive distortions and implicit theories in 77 young sex offenders of whom 56 were child abusers and 21 were peer abusers. The sociomoral reflection measure-short form (SRM-SF) was used to assess moral judgment, and was extended with questions about sexual situations and the offenders' abuse victim(s). Lower stage moral judgment was only found in peer abusers responding to own victim situations. The Sex With Children (SWCH) scale was used to measure implicit theories, which are beliefs justifying sex with children. No significant differences were found between the child and peer abuser group. Neither significant relations were found between the implicit theories and the level of moral judgment. In addition, all SRM-SF responses were coded according to Barriga and Gibbs' (1996. Measuring cognitive distortion in antisocial youth: Development and preliminary validation of the 'How I think' questionnaire. Psychology Department, 22, 333-343) four-category typology of self serving cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions concerning the abuse victim were associated with lower stage moral judgment, but only in the peer abuser group. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-619
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology
Issue number22 (4)
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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