Monday, July 18, 2011

Research Paper Final Draft... All 18 pages :)

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Historical Perspective

III. Identification of Problem

IV. Proposed Methods of Improvement

V. Summary and Conclusion

VI. References Used

The problem that will be discussed is the issue of juvenile/adolescent sexual offenders in present day society. This topic was selected as the problem of research due to the increased number of juvenile sexual offenders noticed, which have appeared in the media, including the circumstances and variables of causes for occurrences, such as decreased parental supervision, medical and/or mental disorders, societal influences on adolescents regarding nature and norms of sexual behavior, and other possible factors that contribute to increased sexual behaviors in individuals that could cause or result in these individuals displaying a maladaptive sexual behavior while classified as a juvenile. For reference purposes, the term “Juvenile and/or Adolescent (Sexual) Offender” within this project will be defined as “a youth, from puberty to the legal age of majority, who commits any sexual act with a person of any age, against the victims will, without consent, or in an aggressive, exploitive or threatening manner.” (Ryan, Lane, Davis, & Isaac, 2010) The term “sexual abuse, crime or inappropriate behavior” will be defined as contact that “is sexual in nature and that occurs without consent, without equality, and as a result of coercion, manipulation, game-playing, or deception.” (Children’s Services, 2002)
Current policies and laws implemented within the legal system regarding treatment, consequences, risks of re-offending, methods of prevention and other practices will be addressed in order to critique effectiveness and depth of developmental factors addressed in the legal system which target the prevention and management of inappropriate sexual behaviors within the adolescent population in order to lower the future instances and occurrences of these behaviors and effectively treat individuals who have committed these offenses with the goal of reducing the current statistics in the future. Variable factors will be considered, including the percentages of sexual offenders who are male versus those who are female, as well as ratio of male to females as victims in sexual crimes involving adolescents. Another factor of consideration includes cases of offenders who are classified as incapacitated within the court system, such as juveniles being dually diagnosed with both mental illness and mental retardation. Statistics of individuals committing sexual offenses from various ranges of age within the classification of juvenile and adolescent will be considered, as well as recidivism statistics within various age ranges and other factors deemed relevant which could support research and conclusions determined in regards to specific causes and diagnoses influencing adolescent sexual offenders within various age, developmental, gender-based, ethnic and cultural groups in which these crimes occur.
Research in this area is significant due to the increased number of sexual crimes committed by adolescent individuals in the present time versus statistics reported in decades past. (Jones, M., 2007) Increased sexual crimes committed by juveniles today is significant due to the impact these crimes have on the future of society, since the juveniles of today are the adults of the future, which include the future workforce, political influences, developers of policies or laws, media reporters, and even celebrities who’s sexual values and practices will have influence on the youth of the following generation. The impact of increased sexual offenders classified as juvenile is also deemed relevant and in need of addressing due to the fact that those who are victims of sexual crimes impact the future of society as well, and as research shows, victims of sexual offenses often are affected mentally to the point of developing mental or emotional disorders and even, in some cases, developing inappropriate sexual behaviors themselves, which may result in a victim of a sexual abuse crime victimizing someone else in a sexual nature, which results in the chain of sexual offenses growing to include even more offenders. (Hickey, E.W., 2006)
Addressing the problem of sexual offenses committed and the resulting treatment, care and methods of prevention of further damage or offenses is also greatly relevant due to the fact that discussion of experiences, results, and findings already completed can provide insight to efficiently diagnose and treat both offenders and victims in a faster or more productive way due to past data of similar occurrences being used to determine methods which may or may not have been affective in past instances, which results in researchers saving time, money and resources by referencing these instances, as well as possible effectiveness in treatment and care of offenders and victims by comparing signs, symptoms and crimes to past examples of a similar nature which may have resulted in either positive and successful results in managing issues or poor and devastating results, which increase likelihood of similar results, which addresses issues regarding humane and ethical treatment, as obviously, a method of which the end results were found to be negative or devastating would not want to be tried numerous times, while instances which resulted in positive or successful rates of treatment and management would likely want to be repeated in similar cases, which would hopefully result in findings that resemble the original results, allowing time, money and resources be spent on the discovery of successful treatment for cases of behaviors or acts which may not have as much documented research or findings within that specified field or area, allowing improvement and increased data collection within the field of juvenile sexual crimes. This, in turn, would provide improvement, as a whole, which would assist in development of future research and positive treatment or care to those who become involved with the system as offenders or victims in future generations. (Rich, P., 2003)
Goals of compilation and publishing of research, findings and recommendations regarding juvenile and adolescent sexual offenders in society involve many objectives. These include increasing awareness of the problem to general society, relaying results of findings of research to a broad audience in hopes of sharing instances and results to those involved with increasing efficiency and productive results within the field and providing a compilation of methods, examples and instances for reference in the future to provide assistance and relevant input within the chosen career field of Psychological Human Services, specifically the field of juveniles with mental or developmental disabilities and/or disorders of a forensic nature and involvement within the court system, in order to actively contribute and provide successful methods of treatment, training and prevention in the field and specific area involving employment. Further goals include the compilation of information to be presented and referenced should the career opportunity of teaching Psychology within an institution of higher education become available and accessed, in order to have organized referenced documentation involving the subject of sexual offenders of a juvenile classification be accessible for sharing and distribution, which will assist in efficiently sharing results of researched information and procedures of treatment and care which can be evaluated and studied for means of improvement of the said procedures or suggest areas in which further research and/or improvement is needed, which will positively effect the field, as a whole by sharing this information with students who may go to work within the field of criminal psychology involving juvenile criminal sexual behaviors in various areas, which will further distribute the information with the hope of gaining consistency and targeting areas of need, which will also improve study of the field as a whole. (Children’s Service, 2002)
The study of juvenile sexual offenses has not been widely pursued as a subject of interest in the field of criminal psychology in a historical perspective. Per Jones, (2007) one of the most documented studies of adolescent sexual offenses occurred in the early 1980s, when a therapist named Robert Longo began treating adolescent boys who had committed sexual offenses. Offenses of the boys ranged from fondling peers a few years younger than they were to the outright raping of young children. Treatment included in Longo’s research included the boys keeping journals with details of sexual fantasies, as well as documentation of logs that tracked the frequency of these fantasies and their extent of severity, such as whether the fantasy was “a passing thought,” or severe enough that the individual had to “act” on the thoughts to which self-gratification was deemed necessary. Longo based treatment on the idea that sex offending is an addiction and that teenagers should be monitored for any triggers that may initiate a “cycle” of re-offending. With this approach in mind, Longo developed treatment in the form of “relapse-prevention plans,” which would track probable stimuli in risk of re-offending as well as an “action plan” should targeted stimuli come in contact with the individual. (Jones, 2007).
Historically, the perspective of juvenile sexual offenders was considered “new” in the 1980s. Much of the treatment, including that of Longo, was based on the same techniques used in the treatment model of adult sexual offenders. Adult offenders, however, do not account for development within an adolescent as well as the impact of family and environment affect the behavior of the adolescent. It appears that juveniles who commit offenses of a sexual nature tend to differ from adult sexual offenders. (Aggrawal, 2009) It is estimated that juveniles account for almost 25% of documented sexual offenses in the United States. Statistics show that rape, which can be construed as the most serious of sexual offenses in juveniles has declined in the last decade, court cases involving other sexual offenses in adolescents have risen. (Children’s Service, 2002) During the period of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, following Longo’s experimental research, it appeared that sex offenses in general weren’t taken seriously by the justice system, and cases involving juvenile offenders were especially noted as not being thoroughly addressed. At the same time, however, it appears the public was taking an active interest and the victims’ rights movement in society began. (Jones, 2007) Attention to sexual abuse was being demanded and at this time the development of centers and hot-lines for rape crisis were being developed and the government began allotting states money within the budget for victim services.
In the early 1990’s the topic of crimes committed of a sexual nature became one of the leading sensations of the media. News stories began targeting the stories of young girls who were raped and sometimes murdered, even though the majority of offenses against juveniles (80%-90%) are committed by someone the victim knows. (Ryan, Lane, Davis, Isaac, 2010) Author, Philip Jenkins (1998), states that with the increased awareness of sexual crimes, society’s next step was to focus on the offenders, including adolescent offenders, which was one of the biggest fears in society due to the media implementing a state of constant paranoia. Per Jenkins, “first it’s adult predators, and then it’s ‘what about children?’ To draw attention, you have to up the ante. The issue moves up a notch and you can’t move it back so easily.”
With the increased awareness that resulted from the media’s huge grasp on sexually related crimes as well as the government’s interest sparking in the field, the recognition and regulation of sexual crimes and offenders appeared to flourish in the early 1990’s. One of the best known examples is Megan’s Law, which was implemented in 1996. (Rathus, Nevid, Fichner-Rathus, 2011) Since 1994 federal law has required many offenders of sexual crimes to register with the police in order to provide possible aid in investigations regarding sex-crimes. Megan’s Law, taking this a step further, mandates that local law enforcement agencies provide public notification to the community about convicted offenders within the community. In the current times of increased technological awareness; this law, which also goes by Community-Notification Law, often uses websites to provide access to this information. There is no distinction between juvenile and adult offenders on these websites, however, meaning on many state websites for sexual offenders, one can find the names, addresses, date of birth, as well as oftentimes photographs of juveniles who have committed any sexual offense. (Jones, 2007) According to Jones (2007), the increase in federal awareness has heightened the targeting of juvenile sexual offenders through the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This act authorized the creation of a federal internet based registry that allows law enforcement officials to tract sex offenders, ages 14 and older, who have engaged in genital, anal or oral-genital contact with children younger than 12.
Throughout the past three decades, awareness of sexual crimes, including those committed by adolescents, has drastically risen. With the implementation of Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act the community is eased from some of their paranoia through the access of knowledge via notification by law enforcement. It appears, however, that the classification of adolescent has been somewhat contradicted when sexual crimes are the focus of study. For the most part, the records of youths’ are protected from being publicly discussed and remain confidential. This appears to be contributed to a theory that children are less responsible for their actions in part to cognitive development, meaning that they are less worthy of blame and possibly more amenable to rehabilitation. With the two aforementioned acts, however, this issue of confidentiality is ignored since the photographs, addresses and ages of sexual offenders are published for anyone to view, alongside those of adult offenders. Based on the limited information found regarding research and studies of juvenile sexual offenders that has occurred, as well as the broad federal laws affecting sexual offenders as a group, versus distinguished into age categories, it appears that juvenile sexual offenders are not classified the same as adolescents within the juvenile justice system who commit other, non-sexual, acts. It appears the justice system considers adolescent sexual offenders to be more fixed in traits, incurable and more dangerous. One could construe from this that the justice system classifies juveniles who have committed sex crimes to be more similar to adults that have committed sexual crimes than they are to juveniles who have committed other, non-sexual crimes.
Based on a review of the historical perspective of sexual offenses committed by adolescents regarding the topic of this research it appears that there are several “problems” to be identified and addressed. The largest of these problems, which consumes many of the related issues, is simply the lack of organized research that has been targeted on juvenile sexual offenders as a unique class of offenders. Much of the found history of the development of programs to treat, prevent and manage behaviors of adolescent sexual offenders has been the same types of treatment used in programs that treat adult sexual offenders. Based on research found it appears that many of the current laws affecting individuals who are adolescent sexual offenders offer the same consequences as adult offenders often receive when sentenced.
It is found that the brain of a human continues to develop and grow until the individual reaches the age of 21 to 22. (Rathus, Nevis, Fichner-Rathus, 2011) Due to this finding, it should be considered that the treatment, training and rehabilitation of adolescent sexual offenders should be focused on the psychological aspect of human cognitive development versus the type of crime committed. When an adolescent has committed a crime of a sexual nature, the source of the urges should be validly explored and attempted to be determined in order to seek the appropriate consequences and method of rehabilitation in order to minimize the chances of reoccurrence as much as possible. Various factors, statistics and variables should be considered when evaluating an adolescent involved in an inappropriate sexual behavior.
Society tends to teach female children in early childhood to be aware of the potential risk of victimization and to avoid situations which could result in becoming a victim of a sexual crime. It appears however that the victimization of males is not considered as thoroughly, though male children are more often victims of serious physical injury from abuse than females and make up at least 25% of the victims of sexual abuse. Males of all ages are oftentimes victims of both violent crimes and property crimes than their female peers. (Ryan, Lane, Davis, Isaac, 2010) While considering this information it is also recommended to consider the lack of recognition of the impact of abuse on the male victim available. Research shows there are very few services for male victims that attempt to identify and aid in him coping with the feelings that occur upon being the victim of abuse. These feelings include anger, powerlessness and lack of control, all of which contradicts the influences males receive through various channels of appropriate feelings when growing up. (Children’s Service, 2002) Male children are often brought up with the expectation of learning to protect and defend oneself. If school children are playing on a playground, and a female child is hit by a peer, she is told to report the incident to the teacher, seeking protection. The male child, however, is often taught to “hit him back,” which teaches the male that he must learn to protect himself, and that there will be no one to protect him if he cannot protect himself. Consequently, when a young male is victimized, he finds himself powerless to defend himself, and when he is the victim of sexual abuse, the feeling of vulnerability would most likely go even deeper than one of physical abuse, since sexual abuse is often said to affect one’s emotional security on a deeper level. (Jenkins, 1998) Male children are brought up to believe that he has failed as a male, and perhaps was even at fault for his victimization. With that feeling, and lack of support, it is very unlikely that he will seek help or protection, instead internalizing the security of his own victimization, repressing the feelings of anger and powerlessness. It will likely be found, however, that these feelings are unable to be permanently repressed, and will eventually be released on someone else, creating another victimization, ultimately returning that sense of power and providing an outlet for the repressed anger.
There are numerous theories proposed to explain why some children and teens sexually abuse others, though there is so solid evidence of any “formula” supporting concrete evidence of the reason this occurs. The theory most widely accepted today is known as the “learning theory,” which states that sexually abusive behavior in children can be linked to various factors. These factors include extreme exposure to violence and/or sexuality, victimization experiences in early childhood, exposure to pornography, substance abuse and exposure to aggressive role models involving family violence. (Hickey, 2006) (Children’s Service, 2002)
While the problem states that there is limited research pertaining to juvenile sexual offenders, as a group, research shows what can be expected; that every child is unique. Because of this, adolescents who commit sexual crimes, and all crimes in general, can have various behavior traits and the progression of these traits can greatly vary from one child to another. There are, however, some traits that that tend to be prominent among adolescent sexual offenders. Rich (2003) explains that approximately nine of ten adolescent sexual offenders are male, and that most commit their primary sexual offense before the age of 12-14. It should also be noted that adolescent sexual offenders are found in every class, socioeconomically, and in every racial, ethnic, religious and cultural group. (Knox & Schacht, 2010) Adolescents who sexually abuse tend to be more likely to have a history of being physically, sexually or otherwise abused. Jenkins (2008) estimates that somewhere between 40% to 80% of adolescents who exhibit inappropriate sexual behaviors have an incident of being sexually abused, themselves, and around 20% to 50% have been victims of physical abuse.
Robert Longo, who’s done some of the most variable research and studies on sexual offenders in adolescence believes that some history of victimization is practically universal within the class of juvenile offenders. Longo states, “As I think back to the thousands of sex offenders I have interviewed and the hundreds I have treated, I cannot think of many cases in which a patient didn’t have some history of abuse, neglect, family dysfunction, or some form of maltreatment within his or her history.” (Jones, 2007)
According to Volume VII, Section II of Children’s Service Progress Notes (May 2002) juvenile sexual offenders share some other common traits as well. These include having difficulties with impulse control and judgment and somewhere between 30% to 60% of adolescent offenders are affected by learning disabilities and/or academic dysfunction. It’s also estimated that up to 80% of juvenile sexual offenders have a diagnosable, and often treatable, psychiatric disorder.
It should also be noted that research has shown that a minority of sexually abusive children have deviant sexual arousal and interest patterns. Most patterns of sexual arousal among adolescent offenders tend to be recurrent and intense and usually are directly connected to the nature of the sexual behavioral issue, whether it be arousal to young children, dominating/forceful sexual behaviors or even the emotional need of contact which can lead to frotteurism or voyeurism. (Hickey, 2006) Clinical observation and empirical research indicate that sexual offenders of an adolescent classification fall into two groups: those who sexually abuse children, and those who victimize peers and groups. (Children’s Service, 2002) The individuals within the two groups tend to have clear differences in victims they select, patterns of offense, social/criminal histories, behavioral patterns and treatment required.
While research has been performed to solidify theories that juvenile sexual offenders are different than adult offenders in many ways, including reasons for offending, developmental factors, undiagnosed or untreated psychiatric disorders and exposure to stimulating factors within the home environment the problem still exists within the most prominent weakness in the issue addressed; the means of treatment, consequences, and future directions to minimize reoccurrence in order to help these juveniles overcome obstacles causing them to commit sexual crimes. The legal system, and society as a whole tends to be more focused on assuring the individual is acknowledged and “classed” as a sex offender than they are on seeking answers and effective treatment.
In order to productively impact the issue of sexual offenders in the juvenile population it appears as if the entire stance of focus by the legal system and society on the group should be amended in the way that adolescent sexual offenders are viewed. Rather than viewing the group as, first, sex offenders, perhaps the individuals should instead be looked at primarily as children. Per Jones (2007), research by the National Institutes of Health shows that the human brain doesn’t complete the maturing process until the person is in their early to mid 20s. In the 2005 case of Roper v. Simmons the Supreme Court acknowledged this when they determined adolescents, even up to the age of 17, were not appropriate for the death penalty because they “cannot with reliability be classified among the worst offenders,” due to this lack of development. The final stages of development within the brain occur in the frontal lobe, which things adolescents lack in the decision making process are learned, such as impulse control, development of morals and emotion regulation. (Rathus, S.A., Nevid, J.S., Fichner-Rathus, L., 2011) This means adolescents tend to be impulsive, while adult offenders who have completed this development tend to be more compulsive, leading to behaviors such as grooming, where the offender selects their victim and could spend weeks or months in preparation of the sexual victimization. Though juveniles can easily determine the difference between right and wrong, the perceiving of the possible risks and consequences are often not considered. When applied to individuals who may have a developmental disorder or psychiatric illness, this impulse control can be even more weak within the individual’s mind. While there are currently treatment facilities for juvenile offenders, many are often committed only after they have performed what the court defines as a “serious” incident (which can vary among courts), and often these facilities focus on treatment of the sexual behavior, alone, instead of looking at the juvenile as a whole and discovering the root of the problem, why the offense was committed and what can possibly be done to assist in the further development of the child to correct the weak area in development and/or the environmental factors which could have contributed to the committing of the offense and what can be done to prevent further instances of inappropriate behavior.
While treatment facilities can be effective if needs are targeted correctly, it is felt that these facilities should take a “step-up” in their means of preventing further incidents. Also the justice system, as a whole, should began viewing adolescent sexual offenders as individuals who have not completed the cognitive development process versus viewing them as hard-core sexual predators. It is important to also remember that each individual and their offense is different, and should be treated as such. Doing this would mean amending laws such as the Adam Walsh Act and similar legislation. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders a diagnosis of pedophilia requires a person to be at least 16 years old with “recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies” over a period of six months or longer, and that he acts upon with a child who is at least five years younger. (Aggrawal, 2009) It appears, however, that it would be risky diagnosing a 16 year old with pedophilia. At the age of 16 a teenager’s history of sexual interest is relatively short, especially compared to that of a 40 year old who has a history of behaviors associated with pedophilia.
Juvenile assessment tests, which include questions about a youth’s sexual history, antisocial behavior and support system help clinicians evaluate risks of re-offending in adolescents. These assessments, however, have not been scientifically validated and can be difficult for juveniles due to cognitive transitions in thought based on stages of brain development. Because of this these assessments are often affective for tracking risks of immediate occurrences of inappropriate behaviors but are unreliable in determining whether the individual is a long term risk of re-offending.
Because of these cognitive transitions, the Adam Walsh Act and other similar laws risks ensnaring and labeling low-risk teens who are not heading toward becoming adult sexual offenders. Studies show that recidivism for juveniles who commit sexual offenses is around 10%. Lower than most other juvenile offenses such as property and substance crimes. (Jones, 2007) It’s also significantly lower than adult sexual offenders, which ranges from 25%-50%.
Due to these findings, it is recommended that focus be placed on the treatment, care and management of the individual in order to better prepare him or her for adult life and responsibilities. Upon committing a sexual crime, assessments should be completed to identify any factors that could contribute to the instance of sexual abuse, and treatment should be based on focusing on the factors identified, whether it be exposure to inappropriate stimuli within the home, a history of victimization towards the offender or other variables affecting development and behaviors which can be an influence within the chances of re-offending for the child.
While juvenile sexual offenders can are often involved in serious crimes involving sexual victimization of another, they are also often times involved in “experimental” or learning behaviors which end up victimizing another. Due to lack of research, stereotypes within society and legal tendencies of action towards these juveniles as sex offenders, versus undeveloped humans, there are many “holes” and areas of improvement needed within the treatment, care and management of behaviors for adolescent sexual offenders. It is recommended that the laws and legislation which has “grouped” juveniles and adults into one class of “sex offenders” be reviewed, and the legal system begin viewing adolescent sexual offenders as children first, instead of sexual offenders. Further suggestions include notice of the development process of the human brain by the juvenile justice system involving adolescent sexual offenders, which include lack of impulse control and undeveloped morals within the brain of a child. With this acknowledgement, it is recommended that the treatment and behavior management of juvenile sexual offenders be focused on the cognitive development, possible presence of undiagnosed or untreated mental or developmental disorders, as well as stimuli present within the environment of the offender which may have contributed to the offense. With this knowledge, the direction of treatment should be focused on implementing strategies which work towards overcoming identified barriers in order to assist in further brain development as the adolescent moves into adulthood. Consistent open communication regarding sexual interests should be implemented, which should be used in training the individual in appropriate sexual behavior and establish a coping mechanism for the child should they continue to get urges which may not be appropriate. Long term monitoring and frequent follow-ups are also recommended to minimize repeated instances of victimization of others, as well as to provide support to the offender as they continue to grow and mature into adults. It is believed that if this proactive approach is taken instead of classifying and punishing an adolescent offender immediately following an offense the recidivism rates will continue to drop, and the knowledge of appropriate behavior will also become more wide-spread, assisting individuals who are vulnerable to having inappropriate sexual behaviors in coping with pressures which may be resulted from media, celebrities, peers, or other negative influences.

1) Aggrawal, A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton, FL 33487: CRC Press: Taylor & Francis Group.

2) Children’s Service Practice Notes, Vol. VII, Sec. II. (May 2002). Working With Juvenile Sexual Offenders. Jordan Institute for Families. N.C. Retrieved from

3) Hickey, E. W. (2006). Part VII: Harming Children. Part IX: Treating Sex Offenders and Community Attitudes. Sex Crimes and Paraphilia, 307-361, 449-479. Upper Saddle River, NJ, 07458: Pearson Education Inc.

4) Jenkins, P. (1998). Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America. New Haven, CT. 06520. Yale University Press.

5) Jones, M., (2007). How Do You Distinguish a Budding Pedophile From a Kid With Real Boundary Problems?. The New York Times: Magazine. The New York Times Company. Retrieved from

6) Knox. D., Schacht. C., (2010). Ch. VIII: Violence & Abuse in Relationships. Ch. VIV: Stress & Crisis in Relationships. Epilogue: The Future of Marriage & the Family. Choices in Relationships: An Introduction to Marriage and the Family, (Tenth ed.). 419-481, 586-587. Belmont, CA 94002: Wadsworth, Cengage- Learning.

7) Rathus, S.A., Nevid, J.S., Fichner-Rathus, L., (2011). Human Sexuality in a World of Diversity (International Edition), (Eight ed.). Boston, MA 02116: Pearson Ed. Inc.

8) Rich, P., (2003). Understanding, Assessing & Rehabilitating Juvenile Sexual Offenders, (Second ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

9) Ryan, G., Lane, S., Davis, J., Isaac, C., (2010). Adolescence Sex Offenders. Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal. Retrieved from

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