We tested special and general explanations of male adolescent sexual offending by conducting a meta-analysis of 59 independent studies comparing male adolescent sex offenders (n = 3,855) with male adolescent non-sex offenders (n = 13,393) on theoretically derived variables reflecting general delinquency risk factors (antisocial tendencies), childhood abuse, exposure to violence, family problems, interpersonal problems, sexuality, psychopathology, and cognitive abilities. The results did not support the notion that adolescent sexual offending can be parsimoniously explained as a simple manifestation of general antisocial tendencies. Adolescent sex offenders had much less extensive criminal histories, fewer antisocial peers, and fewer substance use problems compared with non-sex offenders. Special explanations suggesting a role for sexual abuse history, exposure to sexual violence, other abuse or neglect, social isolation, early exposure to sex or pornography, atypical sexual interests, anxiety, and low self-esteem received support. Explanations focusing on attitudes and beliefs about women or sexual offending, family communication problems or poor parent-child attachment, exposure to nonsexual violence, social incompetence, conventional sexual experience, and low intelligence were not supported. Ranked by effect size, the largest group difference was obtained for atypical sexual interests, followed by sexual abuse history, and, in turn, criminal history, antisocial associations, and substance abuse. We discuss the implications of the findings for theory development, as well as for the assessment, treatment, and prevention of adolescent sexual offending.

Find article here


Comments are closed.