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Exploratory Review of Route-Specific, Gendered, and Age-Graded Dynamics of Exploitation: Applying Life Course Theory to Victimization in Sex Trafficking in North America

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume: 17 Issue: 3 Dated: May/June 2012 Pages: 257-271
Joan A. Reid
Date Published
June 2012
15 pages
This review explores the life course dynamics of victims that may increase their vulnerability to exploitation in sex trafficking.
The status of research on human trafficking has been characterized as methodologically inadequate and lacking sufficient theoretical framework necessary for solution development. This review of sex trafficking in North America examined prior research regarding victim vulnerabilities through the theoretical lens of life course theory endeavoring to uncover life course dynamics resulting in exploitation in sex trafficking distinguishable by victim type. Shared and distinct life course dynamics emerged based on victim origin and route, gender, and age of onset that corresponded to the key components of Sampson and Laub's age-graded theory of informal social control. Indicators of harmful informal social control processes during childhood and adolescence were common across internationally and domestically trafficked boys and girls, with a desire for acceptance and love commonly exacerbating initial entrapment. Limited social capital typified victims experiencing initial exploitation during young adulthood, with internationally trafficked victims uniquely isolated due to citizenship status and language or cultural barriers. Through the application of life course theory, a more complete understanding of the dynamics affecting vulnerability to exploitation in sex trafficking can be gained, providing enhanced information regarding plausible strategies for prevention and intervention. (Published Abstract)