Self‐determination in rehabilitation: a qualitative case study of three young offenders on community orders

Lynne Millward (Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Sarah Senker (Department of Health and Human Sciences at the University of Essex, Guildford, UK)

The British Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 1463-6646

Publication date: 3 August 2012



The purpose of this paper is to consider how male young offenders on community orders made sense of their offending behaviour as well as considering the extent these views aligned with traditional stereotypes of masculinity.


The research adopted a qualitative approach, using semi‐structured in‐depth interviews followed by interpretative phenomenological analysis to identify themes within the participant's narratives.


Two master themes were identified; “dissociating from an offender identity and authoring a new non‐offender identity” as well as “masculinity as multifaceted”. These themes were interpreted using self‐determination theory, highlighting the importance of intrinsic motivation and specific environmental conditions in enabling change and exploration of new identities.

Research limitations/implications

This work was based on a small sample size. Whilst this permitted an in‐depth analysis it is acknowledged that this may have implications for making generalisations across the youth offending population.

Practical implications

This study identifies that the principles of autonomy, relatedness and competence, as outlined in self‐determination theory, potentially offer fruitful areas to be implemented in community orders. Such conditions can help to harness intrinsic motivation to change and self‐regulated behaviour.


This paper is of value to those working and holding an interest within the criminal justice domain. Its adoption of a qualitative approach, considering a UK sample of young offenders on community orders at the time of the interview is unique. This study allows practical recommendations to be made to those engaged in youth rehabilitation.



Millward, L. and Senker, S. (2012), "Self‐determination in rehabilitation: a qualitative case study of three young offenders on community orders", The British Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 204-216.

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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