Section 2: Overview
2 Hours

Lecture Topic TOPIC: OVERVIEW

Now let’s take a look at a more extensive approach to typology research with juvenile sex offenders that is being carried out by Hunter and his colleagues.38

Use SlideUse Slide #13: Potential Subtypes (Hunter et al., 2003, 2004)

These researchers have begun to investigate the complex relationships among personality characteristics, developmental experiences, and other risk factors which may be associated with different pathways to sexually abusive behavior among youth. Their preliminary research suggests the following three subtypes:39

Hearing about these differences, you can start to get an idea about how we wouldn’t want to approach all youth in the exact same way. Understanding the juvenile subtypes and varied pathways can assist those who provide treatment and other interventions with developing differential and tailored strategies.

So, to sum things up, as you’ve now seen, the field is advancing, and we are beginning to get a clearer and more research–based picture of juvenile sex offenders.

We have learned that even though there are some similarities between adults and juveniles who commit sex offenses, these youth are certainly not simply younger, smaller versions of adult sex offenders. Several important differences exist. In fact, the current research and professional literature seems to indicate that juvenile sex offenders “look” much more like other juvenile delinquents than they “look” like adult sex offenders.40

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, we also learned that juvenile sex offenders are a heterogeneous population. And the emerging typology research has provided additional evidence about the diversity of these youth.

Part IV: Implications

So what are the implications of all of this information for our work with juvenile sex offenders?

It means that we need to keep in mind the differences (and similarities) between adult and juvenile sex offenders when we think about our approaches to managing these youth.

And it means that we must take into account the research on adolescent development, as well as juvenile delinquency and youth violence, because this research can be very helpful for informing policies and practices for juvenile sex offenders. Simply doing what we do with adult sex offenders is no longer the best response.

It also means that our management strategies must be individualized, because these youth obviously are not all alike. “One size fits all” responses are not appropriate.

And all of this is relevant to how we respond to these youth at all phases of the juvenile justice system.

Use SlideUse Slide #14: Implications

For example, at the point of disposition in the juvenile and family court, judges and other system actors should have the benefit of understanding the similarities and differences between adult and juvenile sex offenders and the developmental and environmental factors that we’ve just reviewed.

And they’ll also want to know what kinds of individual and family needs are present—as well as the strengths and assets that exist. That way, placement decisions and court orders will be individualized based on the specific risk and needs of the youth and his or her family.

Judges and others involved at the point of disposition will also want to know that some of these youth can in fact be managed safely in the community with the right kinds of restrictions, expectations, and interventions in place, and that other youth will require a residential, institutional, or other out–of–home placement. In order to appropriately place them, judges need information about which youth need which types of intervention and in what kind of setting they should receive these services. These kinds of decisions should be driven by good assessment data.

As you will see in the next section, what the research tells us about these youth also has important implications for how and what we assess. Some of the factors that we need to identify and monitor with youthful sex offenders will be similar to what we assess for adult sex offenders, and some will be different. And the assessment tools that we use need to be developmentally appropriate and informed by what we know about these youth.

From a treatment and supervision perspective, what we currently know about juvenile sex offenders has implications for which interventions, services, and strategies we should be using with which youth. We’ll talk in much more detail about those management components later in this training, including some examples of evidence–based interventions.

For now, suffice it to say that because we know that these youth are not all alike, and that they are not simply younger versions of adult sex offenders, our approaches to treatment and supervision must also be tailored to meet the developmental, individual, and environmental circumstances of each youth.

And of course, this information should be considered when enacting or amending legislation. Again, rather than automatically putting into place the same types of legislation for youth that exist for adults, policymakers should be given the opportunity to understand the important differences between adults and juveniles who commit sex offenses and consider how that information can inform the laws that are introduced and ultimately passed.

In fact, with juveniles who commit sex offenses, the ways in which some of these statutes are designed and implemented have the potential to impact victims, families, and the youth themselves in negative or anti-therapeutic ways that are not necessarily desired or intended. Sex offender–specific legislation that pertains to registration, community notification, and civil commitment are key examples. We’ll spend some time talking about those issues later in this training as well.

Finally, what we now know about juvenile sex offenders may have an impact on the ways in which we respond to the needs and interests of victims. For example, it can be used to inform approaches to safety planning in the home and in schools, considerations for family preservation and reunification, supervision strategies, and parent or caregiver interventions.

At this point, let’s recap what we’ve covered during this section.

Use SlideUse Slide #15: Summary

Before we move on to the next section of the training, let’s take some time to do an exercise that will get us thinking about some of the complexities we face in managing these cases. We’ll use case studies about three different youths to stimulate our thinking about how different these cases can be and how we can best manage them. We will also be referring back to these case studies later in the training.

Learning ActivityLearning Activity: Characteristics of Juvenile Sex Offenders

With this exercise completed, we have now finished the introductory and framing aspects of this training curriculum.

Before we move into the more specific substantive components of the training, do you have any questions or comments about the material we have covered so far?

(ALLOW FOR AUDIENCE RESPONSES BEFORE MOVING ON TO THE NEXT SECTION.)

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