The development of a program engagement theory for group offending behavior programs

Emma Holdsworth, Erica Bowen, Sarah J. Brown, Douglas Howat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
102 Downloads (Pure)


Offender engagement in group offending behavior programs is poorly understood and under-theorized. In addition, there is no research on facilitators’ engagement. This paper presents the first ever theory to address this gap. A Program Engagement Theory (PET) was derived from a constructivist grounded theory analysis, that accounts for both facilitators’ and offenders’ engagement in group offending behavior programs. Interviews and session observations were used to collect data from 23 program facilitators and 28 offenders (group members). The analysis revealed that group members’ engagement involved shared identities and moving on as a group. In turn, this was dependent on facilitators personalising treatment frameworks and establishing a hook in order to help group members move on. The PET emphasises the importance of considering change during treatment as a process rather than simply a program outcome. Solution-focused programs were more conducive to engagement and the change process than offence-focused programs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1479-1499
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2016


  • engagement
  • theory
  • offender
  • facilitator
  • group
  • program


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