Section 2: Overview
2 Hours


Part III: Current Research and Literature

As I mentioned a moment ago, the field has advanced in such a way that professionals no longer believe that it is appropriate to design intervention strategies for juveniles that mirror the approaches used for adults. Again, that is because we know that juvenile sex offenders are not simply younger, smaller versions of adult sex offenders.

Now, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have any commonalities. In fact, there is no question that some similarities exist between adults and juveniles who commit sex offenses.

Use SlideUse Slide #10: Key Similarities

For example, the sexually abusive behaviors that both adults and juveniles exhibit have the potential to cause considerable harm to the victims they target.

In addition, both adults and juveniles tend to target persons who are known to them, rather than targeting strangers.14

And because of the underreporting of sexual abuse, it is likely that both adults and juveniles are committing more sex offenses than the official data reflects. In other words, both adult and juvenile sex offenders are likely to be under-detected and under-apprehended.

It is also believed that both adults and juveniles tend to engage in some degree of planning prior to offending, and that the offenses that they commit do not “just happen.” Rather, they may think or fantasize about what they want to do in advance, set up situations, or take advantage of opportunities to victimize others.

And along a similar vein, both groups are likely to distort their thinking patterns in a way that allows them to engage in this kind of abusive behavior.

In other words, they are generally aware of the wrongfulness of these behaviors, and may even have an understanding of the potential negative impact that these behaviors can have on the victims. However, both adults and juveniles somehow give themselves permission to commit the offense or offenses anyway, and often convince themselves that the behavior is not as serious or harmful. We refer to this as cognitive distortion, and again, both adults and juveniles who commit sex offenses tend to have this in common.

Additionally, both adult and juvenile sex offenders often have some form of self-management, coping skills, and/or social competency deficits.15 For example, they may have difficulty dealing effectively with their emotions or managing stress or conflict, they may have problems with assertiveness or communication skills, and they may be socially withdrawn or isolated. And their sex offending behaviors may in part be related to some of these kinds of deficits or challenges.

Finally, the research has consistently demonstrated that both adult sex offenders and juvenile sex offenders are diverse and heterogeneous populations. 16 Just as there is no “typical” adult sex offender, there is no “typical” juvenile sex offender. Individuals who commit sex offenses—adults and juveniles alike—come from all walks of life, and have a wide and varying range of risk levels, risk factors, strengths and assets, and intervention needs.

And we need to remember that these youth—as well as adults who commit sex offenses—are not just “sex offenders.” Sexually abusive behaviors are only one aspect of who these individuals are, and we should be cautious about defining these offenders them solely in terms of one set of behaviors. Otherwise, we might overlook the other important needs—and strengths—that these youth and adults have.

So, in terms of management strategies, one size certainly does not fit all for either adult or juvenile sex offenders. In other words, sexually abusive adults and juveniles are similar in that they are so diverse!

Now that I’ve highlighted some of the ways in which they are similar, let’s review some of the differences between them. As you’ve heard already, advances in the research and professional literature have increased our understanding of juvenile sex offenders, including some very important differences between adults and juveniles who commit sex offenses.17

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