Because the heterogeneity of adult sex offenders has been well documented but no comparable taxonomic program has been undertaken for juvenile sex offenders, this article assesses the need for such a program for juvenile offenders and examines what dimensions and taxonomic structures may serve as reasonable points of departure in the systematic exploration of viable typologies for young offenders.
Three arguments support the contention that juvenile sex offenders are at least as heterogeneous as sexually coercive adults: (1) data indicating a significant portion of adult rapists and child molesters have engaged in sexually coercive behavior as juveniles indicate the heterogeneity found among adult offenders may also exist among juvenile offenders; (2) the apparently low recidivism rates reported for juvenile offenders indicate there may be a substantial sub-group of these offenders whose deviant sexual behavior does not persist into adulthood; and (3) juvenile offender samples typically comprise both rapist and child molester sub-groups. The article covers the generation and evaluation of typologies for juvenile sex offenders and specifically examines empirical studies of such possible discriminating dimensions as family environment, sexual history and adjustment, social competence, behavioral problems, neurological and cognitive problems, school achievement, level of force and physical injury to victims, and race. A study is reported that involved 564 male sex offenders who had been committed as sexually dangerous to the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater. The primary data source for sub-typing subjects and for coding variables was the offender's clinical file. A classification procedure was developed based on the data that assigned rapists and child molesters to types. Developmental interviews were conducted with the sample and various dimensions of sex and aggression were analyzed. Taxonomic results and analyses of group differences indicated only a subset of the types found in adult sexually aggressive samples may be appropriate for juvenile samples. More specifically, for both rapist and child molester typologies, low social competence, high antisocial types appeared to be the most prevalent among juvenile sex offenders. The authors conclude that sexual and physical abuse and neglect are related in complex patterns in the developmental histories of sexually aggressive juveniles. 85 references, 12 tables, and 2 figures
Date Published: January 1, 1993