Consequences for Juveniles Who Sexually Offend Research Paper

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Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile Sexual Offending: a Developmental Problem

Adult sexual offending has been considered a serious problem for a long time, but until 1980s the problem of juvenile sexual offending had not been adequately addressed based on an assumption that "boys will be boys" and that adolescent sexual offending was more of an experimental stage for boys not requiring professional intervention (Lane, Davis, & Isaac, 1987). The issue, however, attracted more serious attention in the 1980s and '90s, for available literature and the FBI crime reports indicated a set of problems which could no longer be downplayed. By late eighties, the incidents of adolescent sexual offending was rising by 10% each year, while in the state of Utah the number of juveniles committing sexual offenses by 1989 had increased by 55% in the preceding five years. The number of forcible rapes by juveniles in 1990 was 30% higher than it was in 1989. Moreover, many adult sex offenders reported that their offending careers had begun during adolescence or early childhood (Openshaw et al., 1993). Research suggests, however, that juvenile sexual offending differs from adult sexual offending in the sense that juvenile offending is more tied to developmental issues rather than sexual deviance. Such issues include the formation of personality, psychological aspects of development, adolescent response to the social environment and changes, and many other social forces that define the emotional and cognitive relationships and behavior of juveniles.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on Consequences for Juveniles Who Sexually Offend Assignment

Sexual offending is defined as "any sexual interaction(s) of any age that is perpetrated (a) against the victim's will, (b) without consent, or (c) in an aggressive, exploitative, manipulative, or threatening manner" (Ryan, Leversee, & Lane, 2010, p. 3). It involves a wide range of behaviors, including paraphilias (more than one type of sexual deviancy). Molestation includes rubbing, touching, sucking, involuntary exposure to sexual materials, and, in the extreme cases, penetrating behaviors. Rape refers to sexual act perpetrated using force and/or violence, and in some cases legal definitions include penetration by penis or various objects. Other forms of sexual offending include exposing one's genitalia (also known as exhibitionism), peeping or voyeurism (observing others without their consent), frottage (rubbing against others), fetishism (for example, urinating or masturbating on somebody else's garments), and various forms of obscene communication such as denigrating telephone calls, name-calling, and verbal sexual harassment (Ryan, Leversee, & Lane, 2010, p. 3).

Dealing with juvenile sexual offenders is much like dealing with a troubled child who is experiencing various social problems because of the developmental stage. Factors affecting these juveniles include familial and peer relationships, the exploration of new attitudes and interests, and reaction to social messages. According to Rich (2009), adolescent sexual offenders, unlike adult sex offenders, do not have fixed emotional, attitudinal, behavioral, and sexual interests and preferences. Their perceptions of their surroundings are fluid and flexible; thus they may be easily influenced by their social environment, and adolescents "are far more amenable to treatment, which, therefore, has the clear capacity to eliminate the problem of sexually abusive behavior by the time the child, or adolescent reaches young adulthood" (p. 432). Adolescents are also more open and willing to participate in educational processes and exhibit far less sexual deviancy than adults, since they are mostly motivated by the desire to experiment (abusive these experimentations though may be).

A study by Miner and Munns (2005), which looked at attitudinal differences among adolescent sexual offenders, juvenile delinquents, and the non-delinquent youth, suggests that lack of social control, normlessness, and a sense of isolation were important factors that influenced the attitudes of juvenile sexual offenders. These factors distinguished sexual offenders from other juvenile delinquents and the non-delinquent youth. While differences on social variables such as family normlessness and social isolation were scant between juvenile delinquents and the non-delinquent youth, juvenile sexual offenders exhibited higher levels of normlessness and social isolation (among peers, in the school, and the family) than juvenile delinquents and the non-delinquent youth. Miner and Munns (2005) write that "sex offending behavior in adolescents can be considered a normlessness driven behavior, a socially inappropriate means of achieving a conventional goal, in this case relationships and intimate contact (p. 499). The study found no indication that adolescent sex offenders were more prone to sexual deviancy than juvenile delinquents and the non-delinquent youth; they were primarily motivated by problems adolescents encounter during a developmental process. Sexual offenders faced more of such problems in their lives than did non-sexual juvenile delinquents and the non-delinquent youth.

It is interesting to note here that factors influencing male and female adolescent sexual offenders sometimes differ. Several comparative studies suggest that female sexual offenders are far more likely to be victims of past sexual abuse themselves. For example, one study, which focused on 22 female college students who had molested others during their childhood, found that 70% of those female students had been sexually abused in the past. Female juvenile sexual offenders are also likely to be younger than male adolescent offenders. Their victims are also younger and many female offenders molest children during baby-sitting. And while male sexual offenders generally victimize females, female sexual offenders target males and females almost equally. Juvenile females are also likely to sexually offend their acquaintances and relatives than young male sexual delinquents. Another study looking at the cases of 67 female juvenile sex offenders and 70 male juvenile sex offenders found that the most notable difference was the female offenders' past victimization (Vandiver & Teske, 2006; Rightland & Welch, 2001). These findings demonstrate that the factors which negatively influence the developmental stage of adolescents influencing them most are social in nature, and not the adolescent tendency to sexual deviancy. Most researchers agree that addressing these social causes is the key in developing methods for treating and rehabilitating juvenile sexual offenders.

Negative developmental issues also affect adolescents in their decision to target specific groups of victims. One study, comparing adolescent male sex offenders who molested their younger siblings and those who assaulted non-sibling children, found interesting results. Juvenile sex offenders who victimized their younger siblings reported to have significantly greater levels of parental rejection, negative family atmosphere, dissatisfaction with family relationships, and parental physical discipline. They were also more likely to have been sexually offended in their childhood than offenders who targeted non-sibling children (Worling, 1995). Worling suggests that there are different developmental aspects which influence these adolescents. Some children living with abusive parents may turn to siblings for nurturing and comfort, and with the advent of pubescence they may later sexualize their relationships. But some other children, suffering from abusive and punitive treatment at the hands of their parents, may seek a form of retribution within their own families. "The heightened degree of marital discord, physical discipline, and negative communication patterns," Worling points out, "may alternatively be serving as a source of modeling for these adolescents, and may facilitate the adoption of the attitude that family members are appropriate recipients of interpersonal violence" (p. 639).

When treatment programs for juvenile sex offenders were initially introduced in 1980s, the treatment methods were modeled on the existing treatment programs designed for adults. The rationale for treating adolescent sex offenders in the same way as adults were treated was based on an assumption that offending careers of adult sex offenders began during their adolescence. But empirical-based research studies conducted later in the 1990s challenged these assumptions and the evidence today suggests that most juvenile sex offenders do not become adult sex offenders (Chaffin & Bonner, 1998; Letourneau & Miner, 2005; Rich, 2009). Nonetheless, researchers and clinicians agree that adolescent sex offending puts these juveniles 'at risk' condition, requiring that the juveniles are provided with appropriate treatment. Evidence suggests that timely intervention helps prevent the development of a more fixed interests in pursuing sex offending which may lead to adult sex offending.

Among the programs designed to treat adolescent sex offending, the most well-established is the multisystem therapy, family-based treatment which takes into consideration the common problems adolescents encounter during their natural development. Therefore, multisystem therapy targets the individual, his or her family, peers, and the school and the individual's neighborhood, community as well as adolescent service agencies. This system is grounded on an understanding that juvenile sex offenders are part of a large interconnected network, and that their offending behavior is a product of interaction between adolescents and other elements of that network. The multisystem therapy targets these interactions with the purpose of fixing any cracks that negatively influence the juvenile. The program places an emphasis on "home-based, family-focused services that are intensive, time-limited, and goal-oriented" (Smallbone, Marshall, & Wortley, 2008, p. 124).

Targeting adolescents requires that we designate a clear line between adolescence and adulthood, but it is a very complicated issue as the line between older adolescents and younger adults is hard to delineate. This problem raises a number of important questions. For example, when do adolescent sex offenders become adult sex offenders? As Rich (2009) points out, there is not even a legal answer to this question. While 18 is considered… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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