The Difference Between Desistance from Sexual Offending and Not Reoffending

In their recent article published in the Journal of Crime and Justice, Brooke Cooley and Lisa Sample discuss the difference in desistance and recidivism from sexual offending.


Scholars have generally relied on a lack of sexual recidivism as an indicator of desistance, which can be misleading because desistance and the lack of recidivism are two distinct constructs and should be measured as such. Desistance includes gradual cognitive and affective transformation, whereas the lack of reoffending could be a function of several factors including the natural aging process, the lack of opportunity, or increases in social bonds. This research conducted a comparative case study analysis to highlight how desistance and the lack of reoffending differentiate within sexual offending. Our results demonstrate a desistance pathway in one case and a simple lack of reoffending in another. Our findings can be used to expand our theoretic understanding of desistance as more than a lack of reoffending.