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Sexual Reoffense Trajectories With Youths in the Child Welfare System

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2017
15 pages
This article reports on a study whose objective was to determine whether the persistence of problematic sexualized behaviors (PSBs) committed by boys in the Massachusetts child welfare system would support previous taxonomies that categorize offenders as early-onset/life course-persistent, adolescence-onset/adolescence-limited, or childhood-limited in their offending behavior.
The study examined the persistence of PSBs in a male sample (n=638; age rage 2 to 17), using a retrospective longitudinal archival design. Procedures involved a comprehensive archival review of records from the Department of Children and Families. Sub-samples were established by trifurcating the sample based on age at the time of each boy’s first documented PSB, resulting in age cohorts reflecting early childhood (ages 2 to 7), middle childhood (ages 8-11), and preadolescence/adolescence (ages 12-17). Results support the hypothesis that youths who first exhibited PSBs in early childhood would produce higher sexual reoffense rates during each of three follow-up windows (3 years, 5 years, and 7 years) than youths who first exhibited such behaviors in middle childhood or preadolescence/adolescence (p< 0.01) for all group contrasts. Findings support the distinctions of several taxonomies that classify youthful offenders in the juvenile justice system. Abuse reactivity, coping ability, and vulnerability to iatrogenic intervention effects are considered as some of many possible contributing factors. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: June 1, 2017