The relation between negative affect and sexual offending: A critical review

Katrina McCoy, William Fremouw

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

14 Scopus citations


Contemporaneous theories of the etiology and treatment of sex offenders incorporate the notion that negative affect is causally related to sexually deviant behavior. Specifically, one current theory suggests that sex functions as a mechanism for alleviating negative affect among sex offenders. This paper critically reviews research examining the hypothesis that sex functions as a coping strategy among sex offenders as well as literature suggesting there is a causal relation among negative affect, deviant sexual fantasies, and sexual offending. Due to methodological limitations, the literature in this review does not support a causal relation between negative affect and sexual offending, or the hypothesis that sex functions to alleviate negative affect. Methodological strengths and weaknesses of this area of research are discussed and suggestions for future research are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-325
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2010
Externally publishedYes



  • Coping
  • Negative affect
  • Relapse prevention
  • Sexual offending

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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