The experience of problems, help needed and help received in offenders with a learning disability: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Sterland, Jenny

Clinical psychology
July 2003

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© 2003 Jenny Sterland. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Previous research has indicated that offenders with a learning disability have higher rates of adverse life experiences in childhood and that there is a period of time when they begin to exhibit problems when intervention could be attempted coupled with significant unmet need in terms of mental health services. The research is lacking in studies exploring previous service utilisation with offenders and there is also a lack of empirically based models of offending for people with learning disabilities and as a consequence, theory and strategies for early intervention are largely based on risk and protective factors. This was an exploratory qualitative study investigating the experience of offenders with a learning disability. The main aims were to explore their experiences in relation to problems they had and help they needed or received. Ten men were interviewed using a semi-structured interview. The interviews were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. The analysis revealed three higher order themes: human rights, relationships and anger/violence. The higher order theme of human rights incorporated three themes of safety and protection, inequality and forms of discrimination and survival. The higher order theme of relationships incorporated three themes of being alone, trust and collaboration. The higher order theme of anger and aggression stood alone. The themes were discussed in relation to existing literature and models and used to formulate preliminary models of prevention and intervention for offenders with a learning disability. The implications and methodological issues were considered.

Department of Clinical Psychology, The University of Hull
Oakes, Peter Michael
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