University of Leicester
2019PancholiSLPsyD.pdf (1.54 MB)

Group Child Sexual Exploitation: How and Why Does it Happen?

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posted on 2020-07-17, 10:25 authored by Sarah Pancholi
This portfolio is comprised of four parts: A literature review, a research report, a critical appraisal of the research and a service evaluation.
The literature review investigated adult Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) globally, analysing factors contributing to people’s offending behaviour. Twelve studies were included. There were variable definitions of CSE and a paucity of high-quality research. Results indicated common psychological themes such as cognitive distortions, group stages and ways of operating, and systemic issues like socio-economic conditions and subcultural norms that are a catalyst for CSE.
The research analysed interviews with sixteen serving prisoners convicted of group CSE in the UK. Data was analysed using a constructivist, grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2014). Multiple adverse life experiences and criminal versatility were common. Those offending against children did so because of a pervasive sexual interest, which was the main function of their group involvement. Conversely, for people offending against teenagers, group involvement satisfied a need for kinship. CSE was part of a lifestyle that included sex as a transaction. The offending was incidental to group membership.
The critical appraisal analysed strengths and limitations of the research. The interviews produced rich data. The painstaking analytical approach and methodological rigour made the analysis insightful and thorough. The project’s practical applications were apparent. Some participants were under-represented; females, high-level organised groups and the un-convicted. These should be considered preliminary findings and future research should seek to clarify whether they are representative.
The service evaluation analysed the success of a mentor scheme for serving prisoners supporting peers attending Offending Behaviour Programmes. Thematic analysis (Braun and Clark, 2013) revealed their motivations were altruistic and mutually beneficial. They gained positive, sometimes transformational benefits from supporting others. This is consistent with desistance literature about the need to be valued in order to be rehabilitated (Maruna, 2001; Garcia, 2016).



Emma Palmer

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Neuro science, Psychology and Behaviour

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • DPsych



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