Using Theory to Understand the Barriers to Engagement in Group Offending Behavior Programs

Emma Holdsworth, Erica Bowen, Sarah Brown, Douglas Howat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
554 Downloads (Pure)


Noncompletion of group offending behavior programs is a common problem, indicating barriers to engagement. While existing theoretical models have accounted for determinants of motivation, little focus has been directed towards
barriers to engagement. The authors developed the program engagement theory (PET) which not only accounts for the determinants of engagement and the engagement process, it also considers the barriers to engagement. Interviews and session observations were used to collect data from 23 program facilitators and 28 offenders, which were analyzed using grounded theory. The barriers to engagement were classified as program and referral factors (uninformative referrals, offensefocused programs, rigid and abstract content, didactic delivery, and homework), facilitator characteristics (lack of control: contentious and nonassertive), and group member characteristics (unmotivated, pre-contemplative, and blaming others and young, chaotic, and disruptive). Suggestions as to the design and facilitation of group offending behavior programs, and facilitator training and supervision to overcome barriers to engagement are proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)993-1017
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Issue number7
Early online date12 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

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  • barriers
  • engagement
  • facilitator
  • offender
  • programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology


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