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Recidivism of Juveniles Who Commit Sexual Offenses

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2015
8 pages
This Research Brief summarizes what is scientifically known about the recidivism of juveniles who commit sexual offenses, and it identifies policy implications, knowledge gaps, and unresolved controversies in existing research that require additional empirical study.
The summary of the research findings is divided into the following types of research: a prospective national youth sample that included juveniles who had committed sexual offenses; large-scale systematic reviews, including meta-analyses; and single studies. Another section of this brief reviews research limitations and future needs. One key conclusion from the research review is that the sexual recidivism rates of juveniles who have committed sexual offenses range from about 7 to 13 percent after 59 months, depending on the study. These recidivism rates are generally lower than those for adult sexual offenders, which suggests there may be fundamental differences between juvenile and adult sexual offenders. A relatively small percentage of juvenile sexual offenders will reoffend with sexual offenses as adults. The implications of these research finding for policymakers is that juveniles who commit sexual offenses should not be labeled as sexual offenders for life, and juvenile sexual offenders should be managed differently than adult sexual offenders. Another significant research finding is that juveniles who commit sexual offenses had higher rates of general recidivism than sexual recidivism, suggesting that juvenile sexual offenders have more in common with other juveniles who commit non-sexual delinquent offenses than with adults who commit sexual offenses. Intervention efforts with juveniles, therefore, should focus on preventing both sexual recidivism and general recidivism. 45 references

Date Published: July 1, 2015