Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Charles F Gressard

Committee Member

Thomas J Ward

Committee Member

Victoria A Foster


Mental health professionals who provide treatment to sex offenders navigate the complex legal, ethics and moral intersections surrounding the population within the professional-personal dialectic. The purpose of this research study was to explore the potential relationship between mental health professional's attitudes toward sex offenders and their level of moral development in order to encourage increasingly effective training and experiential interventions which then may impact treatment outcomes. Research participants included licensed and non-licensed counselors, social workers and psychologists (n = 135). Along with a demographic questionnaire and the Marlowe- Crowne Social Desirability Scale, the Defining Issues Test was used as a measure of moral development and the Community Attitudes Toward Sex Offender Scale evaluated the attitudes of mental health professionals toward the sex offender population. This study identified a statistically significant relationship between a mental health professional's level of moral development and attitude toward sex offenders with 6.2% of the variation in attitudes related to DIT-II N2 scores. Mental health professionals that engaged in greater amounts of self-directed training endorsed less negative attitudes toward sex offenders. No relationship was found between the mental health professional's length of experience, other types of training and attitudes toward sex offenders. The results and limitations identified within this study support further development of this line of research with an emphasis on recruiting a sample with a larger representation of participants with sex offenders specific credentialing and with the inclusion of additional or alternative assessments related to evaluating attitudes toward sex offenders.




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