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Are Mental Disorders Associated with Recidivism in Men Convicted of Sexual Offenses?

INTRODUCTION: In offending populations, prevalence rates of mental disorders are much higher than in the general population. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether mental disorders can improve the prediction of recidivism beyond actuarial risk assessment tools.

METHODS: The present prospective-longitudinal study was conducted between 2001 and 2021 and included 1066 men convicted of sexual offenses in Austria. All participants were evaluated with actuarial risk assessment tools for the prediction of sexual and violent recidivism and the Structured Clinical Interview for Axis I and Axis II disorders. Sexual and violent reconvictions were assessed.

RESULTS: Exhibitionism and an exclusive pedophilia showed the strongest correlations with sexual recidivism in the total sample. In the child related offense subsample additionally a narcissistic personality disorder was correlated with sexual recidivism. The strongest correlation with violent recidivism was found for an antisocial and borderline personality disorder. None of the mental disorders could improve the prediction of recidivism beyond actuarial risk assessment tools.

CONCLUSION: Common current actuarial risk assessment tools revealed good predictive accuracy in men convicted of sexual offenses. With few exceptions mental disorders were only weakly associated with recidivism, suggesting that there is no direct link between mental disorders and violent and sexual reoffending. Mental disorders should nevertheless be considered in treatment issues.

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