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Risk and Outcomes: Are Adolescents Charged With Sex Offenses Different From Other Adolescent Offenders?

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2017
30 pages
This study examined whether adolescents charged with sex offenses are different from other adolescent offenders based on risk factors and treatment outcomes.
Juveniles who have committed sexual offenses are subject to specialized treatment and policies based on their assumed unique dangerousness, despite contradictory evidence. Limited information is available regarding risk factors and their relationships to outcomes in this population. The current study examined the comparative frequency and predictive utility of empirically supported risk factors for general delinquency, using data from the Pathways to Desistance study. Adolescent males who committed sexual offenses (n = 127) were compared to adolescent males who committed non-sexual offenses (n = 1021). At the start of the study, the sample ranged in age from 14 to 18 (M = 16.00, SD = 1.12) and self-identified as primarily African American (44 percent), Latino (29 percent), or White (25 percent). Outcomes were measured over 7 years and included general and sexual recidivism, involvement in school and work, and positive relationships with peers and adults. The results indicated a few small differences in the presence of risk factors and their relationship to outcomes, with many similarities. Juveniles who had committed sexual offenses had equivalent general recidivism but higher sexual recidivism, although this rate was low (7.87 percent, or 10 of the 127 adolescents who had committed sexual offenses). New clinical and policy approaches may be needed given the similarities between groups. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: July 1, 2017