Background There have been limited theoretical developments with respect to sexual offending by people with intellectual disabilities [Lindsay (2005) Mental Retardation, Vol. 43, pp. 428–441], especially when compared with the development of theories for mainstream sexual offenders. This paper aims at examining a range of theories in their application to sexual offenders with an intellectual disability. Method and Results Three levels of theory are discussed. These include multifactor theories, discussed in the light of a recent model proposed by Lindsay for sexual offenders with intellectual disabilities, as well as single-factor theories associated with socio-affective functioning and an offence process theory, the self-regulation model of relapse prevention. Finally, a recent theoretical development called the ‘integrated theory of sexual offending’ (ITSO) is discussed and applied to sexual offenders with intellectual disabilities. This theory combines theories from all three levels in an effort to provide a comprehensive explanation of the aetiology and maintenance of sexual offending. Conclusion Theories at all three levels, as well as the ITSO, appear to have relevance to sexual offenders with intellectual disabilities. Some tentative suggestions are made for future research to assist in the application of theory to this client group. It is argued that a more complete understanding of theory in relation to this client group will lead to the development of more effective intervention programmes.
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