Section 2: Overview
2 Hours


You should also know that treatment outcome and follow–up research with youthful sex offenders is quite limited. However, the available data does seem to point to more promising outcomes with these youth. The current evidence suggests that many juveniles who come to the attention of the authorities for committing sex offenses do not continue perpetrating in the future.34 In fact, these youth are more likely to engage in other delinquent or criminal behavior in the future than they are to commit new sex offenses.35

The similarities and differences in characteristics we just reviewed are fairly broad generalizations. We must always keep in mind that some of these descriptors or characteristics apply to some youthful sex offenders, and not to others. For example, some of these juveniles may in fact have clear and consistent patterns of deviant sexual interests, arousal, or preferences. This sexual deviance may be a driving force behind their sex offending, and it may be difficult to modify. Some of these youth may, therefore, be among that subset of youthful sex offenders who do continue to commit sex offenses, even despite interventions.

Additionally, there may be some youth whose offending behaviors appear to be more compensatory in nature. For example, because of problems with social skills, self–esteem, or other coping skills deficits, some youth may be more drawn to younger children, who they might perceive to be less threatening or less likely to be rejecting than a peer.

For still other youth, their sex offending behaviors seem neither compensatory nor a function of sexual deviance, per se. Rather, these juveniles might engage in a wide variety of other delinquent, violent, or other harmful behaviors, and their sex offending behaviors appear to be yet another manifestation of their significant conduct problems. And there may be even more possibilities, which means that there are probably a number of different subtypes or subgroups of juvenile sex offenders.

Attempting to identify these subtypes—or typologies—can also be quite challenging for researchers, but when typologies do emerge, they can be very helpful to those who work with these youth.

For example, typology research can help to identify different underlying etiological factors for different subgroups of youthful sex offenders, different characteristics and modus operandi for different subgroups, different intervention strategies required for different subgroups, and differential prognoses or expected outcomes for different subgroups.

In turn, this can help us better direct our resources to youth and their families based on what we know about them. And it definitely helps move the field away from the “one size fits all” approach to intervention. Ultimately, the appropriate use of good typology research may increase our chances of being more effective, and may even assist us with prevention efforts.

It probably won’t surprise you that quite a bit of typology research has been conducted in the adult sex offender management field. And given the relative “newness” of the juvenile sex offender management field, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the typology research with juvenile sex offenders is quite limited! But there has been some recent research exploring potential ways to classify these youth. So let’s take a closer look at a couple of notable examples.

Building upon the work of previous investigators,36 Worling attempted to differentiate subtypes of juvenile sex offenders primarily based on their personality characteristics.37 And consistent with that early research, he found that youthful sex offenders could be classified into four categories.

Use SlideUse Slide #12: Potential Subtypes (Worling, 2001)

The subtype in which the largest proportion of youth was classified was called the Antisocial/Impulsive group. As the name suggests, these youth tended to hold antisocial attitudes and values and were prone to engage in rule violating and delinquent behaviors. Overall, they were found to be a relatively dissatisfied and rebellious group. In addition, the Antisocial/Impulsive juveniles had a high prevalence of experiencing physical abuse during childhood or adolescence. Not surprisingly, these youth were found to recidivate in non–sexual ways at high rates over time.

A second group of youth was classified as the Unusual/Isolated subtype. These youth were characterized by social awkwardness, emotional disturbance, insecurity, and isolation. What is interesting is that this group of youth recidivated at a higher overall rate when compared to the other subtypes—including the Antisocial/Impulsive group. But their recidivism tended to be non–sexual in nature as well.

The third subtype was the Overcontrolled/Reserved group. Youth in this subtype appeared to be responsible, reliable, and relatively psychologically healthy. As such, they were not criminally–oriented. However, these juveniles kept their emotions tightly wrapped, they were under–assertive, and they appeared to be shy and cautious around others. These juveniles had the lowest recidivism rates—both sexual and non–sexual.

The final identified subtype was the group of youth who were classified as Confident/Aggressive. They were outgoing and socially skilled, and much like those youth in the Overcontrolled/Reserved group, they were generally healthy from a psychological perspective. At the same time, however, Confident/Aggressive juveniles seemed to be self–centered and prone toward aggression.

When you consider these different subtypes, it starts to become more and more clear that their offending behaviors may be driven by different issues. And you can probably see how the interventions used for these groups may be very similar in some ways, but very different in others.

For example, how might treatment be different for juveniles in the Antisocial/Impulsive group in contrast to treatment for the Unusual/Isolated group?


Very good! Based on the different characteristics in these two subtypes, you’ve offered some good ideas about how and why you might provide different interventions to these different groups of youth.

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