The aim of this review is to establish how offender engagement within group programs has been conceptualized, defined or assessed, and the factors that are associated with it. Existing models describe determinants of engagement and the process of behavioral change, but there is little in the way of theory explaining the process of engagement in treatment and change. Forty-seven studies were reviewed and revealed inconsistent definitions and assessments of engagement as well as inconsistent use of measures which contributes to confusion about the scope of engagement and reflects the lack of theory. Attendance, completion or dropout rates were frequently relied upon, but may not reliably infer engagement. Participation and out of session behaviors in conjunction with one another, reflecting a series of active responses to treatment, may more reliably reflect engagement in treatment and change. A model for offender engagement is presented which might help clarify the role of engagement variables. Offender demographics appeared to be of little value in predicting engagement, with only a small number of psychosocial factors (hostility, impulsivity) predicting low levels of engagement and most others (anger, anxiety) having little influence. Treatment factors (therapeutic relationship, program objectives) were more consistently related to engagement, but are under-researched.
Bibliographical noteNOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Aggression and Violent Behavior. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Aggression and Violent Behavior [Vol 19, Issue 2 (2014), DOI: 10.1016/j.avb.2014.01.004.