Multi-Modal Self-Regulation Theory of Sexual Offending

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The Multimodal Self-Regulation Theory was first introduced by Stinson, Sales, and Becker as an integrated theory of sexual offending premised on the assumption that persons who engage in acts of problematic sexual behaviour do so because of deficits in primary self-regulatory functioning. Self-regulation—or the ability to modulate emotions, thoughts, interactions, and behaviours effectively—has been discussed within the context of varied psychological and behavioural problems, including personality disorders and self-injurious behaviour. The Multimodal Self-Regulation Theory applies self-regulatory processes to sex offending, suggesting that such behaviours may be yet another form of maladaptive self-regulatory coping. Such an approach combines extensive literatures, ranging from developmental, cognitive-behavioural, and personality theory to neurobiology and criminology. In this chapter, we summarize the main tenets of the theory and discuss examples and case conceptualization using this approach. We also describe early empirical support with several samples of sexual offenders, as well as the development and piloting of a related treatment manual. In each of these sections, we additionally highlight areas for further study, including projects currently under way by the present authors. Finally, we review the theory’s primary strengths and limitations, referencing broader contextual research needs to clarify better the role of the Multimodal Self-Regulation Theory in understanding, treating, and preventing sex offending behaviours.