In order to identify the precursors to sexual offending among boys and girls, the records of 813 sexually abusive children (659 boys and 154 girls) referred for an evaluation of their sexually inappropriate and coercive behavior were reviewed.
The children and youth ranged in age from 3 to 18 when they committed their first offenses. Nineteen percent of the sample were girls who were sexually abusive to other children. There was an exceptionally high base rate of severe maltreatment and associated clinical and psychiatric sequelae for the youth. Girls were significantly more likely to be sexually abused; and this abuse lasted longer, was more severe, and involved more perpetrators. The girls were also significantly more likely than the boys to have witnessed domestic violence and to have witnessed sexual deviance in the home. For all other types of abuse, there were no group differences. All of the children were under the influence of a very high level of caregiver instability. The findings provide clear evidence that the sexually abusive behavior of children and youth is related to their current or previous maltreatment. A followup study of these same children is underway to determine which of them persisted with sexually inappropriate behavior in older adolescence or young adulthood. 5 tables and 61 references
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